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Darab v. United States

    Brief Fact Summary.

    An Islamic Center was hosting a worship service to indicate the end of Ramadan. A new iman was scheduled to give service. At the event, the old iman came with his followers. The old iman and his followers initiated an argument. The security personnel demanded that everyone leave the event or fear arrest by the police. The old iman and his followers did not leave, and they were arrested and convicted of unlawful entry.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    There must be a reasonable basis or justification for a valid bona fide belief defense.

    Facts.

    An Islamic Center in Washington, D.C., held a worship service for the end of Ramadan. The Center was also hosting its reopening after it was closed, due renovations. Thus, the Center was expecting a many attendees. Dr. Samuel Hamoud, the man in charge of security at the Center, hired private security officers to assist at the service. Dr. Adil Al-Aseer, a new imam, was responsible for leading the service. Once service began, the Center’s prior imam, Mohammed Asi, and his followers began a violent argument in the Center, physically attacking Al-Aseer and Hamoud. Thereafter, Hamoud and the manager of the private security team ordered everyone in the Center to leave or the police would arrest them. The Mohammed Asi and his followers did not leave the service, and were, subsequently, convicted of unlawful entry under D.C. Code § 22-3102. Mohammed Asi and his followers appealed the convictions alleging they did not receive the instructions to leave the Center because they could not hear Hamoud and the manager of the private security team, and they thought they were allowed to stay in the Center. Mohammed Asi and his followers belief of the right to remain was founded on an opinion Asi obtained from the Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, which stated one may not own a mosque and deny other Muslims entry onto the mosque property.

    Issue.

    Whether there must be a reasonable basis or justification for a valid bona fide belief defense.

    Held.

    Yes, there must be a reasonable basis or justification for a valid bona fide belief defense.

    Discussion.

    There must be a reasonable basis or justification for a valid bona fide belief defense.

    The prosecution must proved that the defendant was at a location, a person with legal authority over that location told the defendant to vacate, the defendant did not vacate, and, at the time of the request, the defendant did not have a legal right to stay to convict someone of unlawful entry. One’s entrance into a location with a bona fide belief that he or she has the legal right to enter refutes the required intent to illegally stay at a location. Nevertheless, a mere assertion that one has the right to enter a location is not sufficient to be entitled to a jury instruction of bona fide belief defense. Defendants must also introduce evidence that there was a reasonable justification for that belief. Here, Defendants relies on the Koran and an opinion from Al-Azhar University to sustain his belief that Muslims could not be excluded from a mosque. The court accepts that their belief may have provided some form of justification for remaining at the event. However, the explanation does not sufficiently prove that the protesters had a legal right to remain at the service. Also, Defendants claim they could not hear the orders to leave the service, which is contradicted by witnesses’ testimony that stated the instructions were heard throughout the service. Therefore, Defendants’ request for the bona fide belief defense is rejected. The lower court’s ruling is affirmed.


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