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Suspect disputes Hanukkah greeting prompted subway row

  • Story Highlights
  • Rider says fight began after a Jewish passenger used a racial slur
  • One Jewish passenger pulled a knife, Joseph Jirovec's attorney says
  • Jewish passenger says incident began when he said "Happy Hanukkah"
  • A Muslim student from Bangladesh jumped to his aid
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- One of the 10 people accused of an anti-Semitic attack on a New York subway train disputes it began after a passenger said "Happy Hanukkah," the suspect's lawyer said Friday.

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The New York Police Department's Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating the incident on the Q train.

Joseph Jirovec contends the fight on December 7 began when one of the Jewish riders directed a racial slur at a member of Jirovec's mixed-race group, attorney Peter Mollo said.

As the quarrel escalated, someone in the other group pulled a knife on Jirovec, Mollo said.

When police arrived, "they just listened to one side of the story and arrested my client," he said.

Earlier this week, Walter Adler -- one of the Jewish passengers -- said a group of young riders objected to his "Happy Hanukkah" greeting.

"Almost immediately, you see the look in this guy's face like I've called his mother something," Adler told CNN affiliate WABC. Video Watch Adler describe the altercation »

A spokeswoman for Adler and his two female companions told CNN that people in Jirovec's group then used anti-Semitic language against them.

The dispute escalated to punches, resulting in a fractured nose for Adler, Toba Hellerstein said.

The fight drew media attention because a Muslim student from Bangladesh came to the aid of the Jewish trio.

Jirovec is Jewish, Mollo said.

Three of the 10 people arrested in the case appeared in Brooklyn Criminal Court on Friday and they are scheduled to appear before a grand jury January 7.

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Preliminary charges include assault, harassment and disorderly conduct.

The police department said hate-crime charges are being considered in the case. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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