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Missionaries to Stand Trial on Dearborn Arab Fest Conduct

posted on: Sep 18, 2010

Four Christian missionaries accused of inciting a crowd while videotaping themselves evangelizing Muslims at the Dearborn Arab International Festival in June are to stand trial Monday after a judge denied a motion to dismiss the charges against them.

Judge Mark Somers of 19th District Court in Dearborn denied the motion earlier this week and stated in a written opinion that he did not believe the motion had legal foundation or support.
The judge heard arguments Aug. 31 questioning the constitutionality of the charges and asked for more information from the prosecution and defense before he made his decision.
Robert Muise, an attorney with the Ann Arbor-based Thomas More Law Center, is defending the missionaries. He said that despite the judge’s decision, he is ready to prove his clients’ innocence in court.

“I think the evidence will show they did absolutely nothing wrong,” Muise said.

Nabeel Qureshi of Virginia, Negeen Mayel of California, and Paul Rezkalla and David Wood, both of New York, were charged in July with disorderly conduct after police said they received a complaint from a Christian volunteer working at the festival, who said the group harassed him. Mayel also was charged with failure to obey a police officer’s order.
Muise said his clients, who are members of a Christian group called Acts 17 Apologetics, did not harass anyone and the charges they face are a violation of their First Amendment right to free speech. According to the group’s Web site, members “refute the arguments of those who oppose the true gospel, most commonly the arguments of Muslims and atheists.”

Police said the missionaries were arrested because they failed to obey police commands at the festival June 18. Officers maintain the group’s actions were a public safety issue because they caused a large number of people to gather in a small place

Melanie D. Scott
Detroit Free Press