Flag-burning Yale students arrested for arson

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April 10, 2007

12:36 PM

__Two freshmen, one senior caught burning American flag near campus__

p. Three Yale students were arrested last week at 3 a.m. for burning an American flag at a private home near campus.
Senior Hyder Akbar Nikolaos and freshmen Nikolaos Angelopoulos and Farhad Anklesaria said they were lost walking back to campus after visiting a friend. They were arrested for charges including first-degree reckless endangerment, third-degree criminal mischief, second-degree arson, breach of peace and conspiracy to commit second-degree arson. Flag burning is not illegal.

p. The two freshmen are both foreign citizens. Angelopoulos is a Greek international student and Anklesaria is British. Their arrests could affect their immigration status.

p. Akbar was born in Pakistan but is a U.S. citizen. He is also the son of a former governor of an Afghan province. Akbar helped the U.S. as an informal translator during the invasion of Afghanistan. He then published a memoir entitled “Come Back to Afghanistan.”
The students were caught after police officers gave them directions back to campus but soon found the burning flag a few blocks away. The three admitted that they were responsible.

p. They spent Tuesday night in jail. Bail was set at $25,000 for Akbar and Angelopoulos and $15,000 for Anklesaria. They were all released on bail by mid-morning Wednesday.

p. Thursday, their lawyer stated that it was not politically motivated, and he described it as a “stupid college prank,” according to the Yale Daily News.

p. Akbar took responsibility for the entire incident. Angelopoulos and Anklesaria seemed to have been “at the wrong place at the wrong time,” their lawyer told the Yale Daily News.

p. The police report does not reveal whether or not the students were intoxicated, and university officials will not comment on whether or not they will take disciplinary action for the alleged prank.

p. The incident comes after last year’s criticisms of Yale after the New York Times Magazine ran a story on former diplomat to the foreign minister of the Taliban Rahmatullah Hashemi’s admission into the Non-Degree Students Program. The issue received international attention. Hashemi did not gain admission into the Eli Whitney Students Program last summer (which would have given him the opportunity to get a degree) and was unable to obtain a visa to return to Yale from Pakistan for this year.

p. For this reason some argue that the issue of Afghani students at Yale is the reason for debate over the flag incident, where the incident might normally be disregarded as an irrational act committed by college students. The plea hearing is scheduled for today.

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