Former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark yesterday urged the reinstatement of 58 Iranian students expelled earlier this year from Beeville County College in Southeast Texas.
Speaking to a rally of about 70 students - most of them Iranians - at a local dance hall, Clark said the students' expulsions could lead to their deportation to Iran, where their political opposition to the Iranian governmant "might have severe consequences for them."
Clark said the student expulsions were a "harsh response to a problem in which disciplinary action may not even have been warranted."
The expulsions arose from an incident on March 9,when about 90 Iranian students occupied the junior college's gymnasium and were eventually arrested on criminal trespass charges.
The students had been called to the gymnasium by college president Dr. Grady Hogue, who told them their demonstrations and distribution of political literature opposing the Iranian government were disrupting the educational process at the college, according to a trial memorandum filed by the college's attorneys.
Although Hogue refused to discuss the meeting, he also reportedly accused a number of the students of cheating, failing to pay rent to landlords in the town, and charging long distance phone calls to Iran to the college administration.
According to the trial memorandum, a 15-minute question-and-answer period followed after which the singing, chanting students refused Hogue's orders to disperse and were later arrested.
Disciplinary hearings at the college followed. About 75 of the students refused to testify because of the pending criminal charges against them, said Nancy Hormachea, a Houston immigration lawyer who defended them.
Students who agreed to apologize to Hogue were reinstated at the college, she said. The 58 students expelled were those who refused to apologize, she said. All but one of the students pleaded guilty or no contest to the criminal trespass charges and paid small fines, she added, while one student was found not guilty.
Hogue said Hormachea was "partially correct" on the subject of the expulsions, but refused to explain further. The college's attorney was not available for comment.
On May 2, U.S. District Court Judge Owen Cox of Corpus Christi denied a motion filed by Hormachea to enjoin the college from expelling the students on the grounds the college was violating the students' constitutional rights. The Houston chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has voted to appeal Cox's ruling.
Hogue said the approximately 200 Iranian students at Bee County College make up about 10 percent of the student body. He said the Iranians' strident political activity has alienated them from most of the rest of the campus and the 14,000 residents of Beeville.
Hogue said he will not reconsider the expulsion. "I suppose he gets most of his information from New York newspapers," Hogue said of Clark's remarks. "I doubt if he'll have much effect on this situation."00