April 4, 2007 / 7:04 PM / 12 years ago

Three Yale students arrested for burning U.S. flag

A U.S. flag is seen moments after being set afire in a file photo. Three Yale University students have been charged in a case involving the burning of a U.S. flag outside a Connecticut house, a court official said on Wednesday. REUTERS/File

BOSTON (Reuters) - Three Yale University students, including a Briton and a Greek national, have been charged in a case involving the burning of a U.S. flag outside a Connecticut house, a court official said on Wednesday.

Said Hyder Akbar, 23, Nikolaos Angelopoulos, 19, and Farhad Anklesaria, 19, were arrested on Tuesday and charged in New Haven Superior Court with reckless endangerment, arson, breach of peace, criminal mischief and other offenses.

Police said the three torched a flag hanging from the porch of a house in New Haven near the Ivy League school.

Anklesaria is British and Angelopoulos is Greek. Both are freshmen. Akbar, a senior, was born in Pakistan but is a U.S. citizen, according to police and court documents. Anklesaria and Angelopoulos turned over their passports.

Police gave no indication why they set fire to the flag. The trio acknowledged it was a “dumb thing to do” when questioned by police, the New Haven Register reported.

They appeared in court in leg irons and handcuffs, the newspaper said. Bail was set at $25,000 for Angelopoulos and Akbar, and $15,000 for Anklesaria, it added.

Akbar worked as an informal translator for U.S. forces during the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and later published a memoir, “Come Back to Afghanistan,” about his experiences there, the Yale Daily News reported.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1989 that flag burning was protected under constitutional free-speech guarantees, invalidating laws in 48 states and outraging veterans’ groups and others who say that an important national symbol should be protected from defacement.

“It makes me sick to my stomach to think that someone would burn the American flag,” Marc Suraci, 37, owner of the two-story house, told the Register, describing himself as “very, very patriotic.”

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