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Army agent questions law students

By A.J. Bauer
Daily Texan
Feb. 15, 2004

The organizer of an Islamic law conference at UT Law School is questioning whether ethnic discrimination brought a Special Agent for Army Intelligence to campus Monday.

Special Agent Jason Treesh confronted students at the law school, demanding a list of people who attended a conference about women and Islamic law. The conference, Islam and the Law: The Question of Sexism, included speakers from around the nation and focused on the rights of women under Islamic law.

Treesh would not comment about why he was at the law school, but his supervisor, Commander Demetria Marria, said Treesh was following procedure.

Army Intelligence was investigating allegations of two Army personnel who attended the conference, Marria said.

She said the two reported being approached by three Middle Eastern men who asked questions that were "suspicious in nature."

"They felt uncomfortable with foreign students or foreign members at the conference," Marria said. "Nothing is ever obvious. It's just that one question that doesn't sit right, so they report it, and we figure it out."

Law student Liz Stephenson said she was intimidated when Treesh began questioning her and others in the office of the Texas Journal of Women and the Law.

"The way he was approaching the whole thing was really forceful," Stephenson said. "He gave us just enough information to get us to keep talking with him."

Jessica Biddle, another law student who was present, said she felt unnerved by Treesh's methods of interrogation.

"I felt like I was on 'Law and Order,'" Biddle said. "He and another woman showed their badges, but we really didn't participate in the conference, so we didn't know what he was talking about. He said he wanted a roster, because he said they were investigating some attendees."

Treesh tried unsuccessfully to reach the conference organizer, law student Sahar Aziz, who said since it was an open conference, she had no roster of attendees.

"There was a lunch list, because we had limited seats, but that's it," Aziz said. "I don't know what I would do with all of those people's names and contacts."

Aziz said she was disappointed that the conference, which she considered apolitical, raised such suspicion. She also said she was skeptical of the allegations.

"It was very boring as far as [controversy] is concerned," Aziz said. "I question whether those suspicions are more affiliated with ethnicity than anything else."