Tarek Mehanna: Criminalized for Doing the Right Thing
by Stephen Lendman
Post-9/11, the Bush administration declared war on terror. It was sham cover for eroding personal freedoms and waging war on humanity.
Muslims became prime targets. They’ve been victimized, vilified, and persecuted for their faith, ethnicity, prominence, activism, and charity.
They’ve been hunted down, rounded up, held in detention, kept in isolation, denied bail, restricted in their right to counsel, tried on secret evidence, convicted on bogus charges, and given long sentences.
They’ve been incarcerated in segregated Communication Management Units (CMUs). Doing so violates US Prison Bureau regulations and the Supreme Court’s February 2005 Johnson v. California decision.
They’re political prisoners, not criminals. Based on scoundrel media reports, you’d never know it. They’re complicit supporters of state terror.
On October 21, 2009, Mehanna was wrongfully and maliciously charged with “conspir(ing) with Ahmad Abousamra and others to provide material support and resources for use in carrying out a conspiracy to kill, kidnap, main or injure persons or damage property in a foreign country and extraterritorial homicide of a US national.”
No evidence whatever proved it. Nonetheless, he was accused of conspiring with others “to participate in violent jihad against American interests and that they would talk about fighting jihad and their desire to die on the battlefield.”
False charges also claimed they “attempted to radicalize others and inspire each other by, among other things, watching and distributing jihadi videos.”
In fact, there was no plot, no crime, no intent to commit one, and no evidence proving otherwise. He was targeted for posting pro-jihadist material online. According to Massachusetts ACLU education director Nancy Murray:
“It might be speech that horrifies people, but it’s the nature of the First Amendment to protect that speech, unless it’s leading to imminent lawless action.”
No matter. On June 24, 2010, the Supreme Court ruled nonviolent speech and advocacy “coordinated with (or) under the direction of” foreign terrorist groups illegal.
In other words, lawful nonviolent political advocacy, peace conference participation, human rights advocacy training, related legal services and advice, as well as donating cash and humanitarian aid may be unconstitutionally used to convict.
In its 6 – 3 ruling, doing so the Court said violated the Patriot Act prohibition against providing material support to groups designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations.
In Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969), the High Court ruled government can’t punish inflammatory speech unless directed to incite lawless action.
In Texas v. Johnson (1989), Justice William Brennan wrote the majority opinion, saying:
“(I)f there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea offensive or disagreeable.”
Former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall added:
“Above all else, the First Amendment means that government has no power to restrict expression (regardless of its) ideas…subject matter (or) content….Our people are guaranteed the right to express any thought, free from government censorship.”
Today’s High Court has no Brennans or Marshalls. Attornies General like Ramsey Clark no longer exist.
No wonder Mehanna was convicted. “Secret evidence,” unavailable to defense attorneys, was elaborately manipulated to do it. Justice was nowhere in sight. First Amendment rights don’t matter. Without them all others are at risk.
Already gravely eroded, they’re perilously close to disappearing all together. America’s on a slippery slope to tyranny. Freedom hangs by a thread. Anyone challenging state power is vulnerable. Constitutional protections don’t apply.
Intimidated juries most always go along with prosecutors. On December 20, Mehanna was found guilty on seven counts of “conspiring to provide material support to terrorists, conspiring to kill in a foreign country, and of lying to authorities in a terrorism investigation.”
Obama got another trophy. Unpopular views may be criminalized.
On April 12, sentencing was pronounced. An FBI Boston Division announced it, saying:
“A Sudbury, Massachusetts man who was convicted last year on charges that he conspired to kill Americans was sentenced today to 17.5 years in federal prison.”
“US District Court Judge George A. O’Toole, Jr. sentenced Tarek Mehanna, 29, to 210 months, to be followed by seven years of supervised release.”
“Mehanna was convicted of conspiracy to provide material support to al Qaeda, providing material support to terrorists (and conspiracy to do so), conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country, conspiracy to make false statements to the FBI, and two counts of making false statements.”
Last December, the ACLU of Massachusetts condemned the conviction, saying it “undermine(d) the First Amendment and threaten(ed) national security.”
“Under the government’s theory of the case, ordinary people – including writers and journalists, academic researchers, translators, and even ordinary web surfers – could be prosecuted for researching or translating controversial and unpopular ideas. If the verdict is not overturned on appeal, the First Amendment will be seriously compromised.”
On April 13, the Boston Globe reported Mehanna’s father, Ahmed, expressing outrage about his conviction. He said it shows America is more repressive than the Egyptian government he grew up under decades earlier.
Mehanna’s support committee issued a statement, saying:
“This isn’t over….This is bigger than Tarek and it’s bigger than his family. It affects all of you reading this….Tarek, we stand with you, helping to bear” up against state oppression. “When we share our struggle, we are never alone.”
Those who know Mehanna call him “humble, reserved, warm, compassionate, intelligent, charismatic, well-read, and dedicated.” He challenges injustice, advocates for Muslim prisoners, and helps people in need.
No matter. He’ll spend the next 17.5 years in prison for doing the right thing. Obama prosecutors call it terrorism or conspiracy to commit it. It’s the wrong time to be Muslim in America. Moreover, we’re all as vulnerable as Tarek.
Mehanna’s Sentencing Statement
“I learned about the American-led sanctions that prevented food, medicine, and medical equipment from entering Iraq, and how – according to the United Nations – over half a million children perished as a result.”
“I remember a clip from a ’60 Minutes‘ interview of Madeline Albright where she expressed her view that these dead children were ‘worth it.’ I watched on September 11th as a group of people felt driven to hijack airplanes and fly them into buildings from their outrage at the deaths of these children.”
“I watched as America then attacked and invaded Iraq directly. I saw the effects of shock and awe in the opening day of the invasion – the children in hospital wards with shrapnel from American missiles sticking but of their foreheads.”
“I learned about the town of Haditha, where 24 Muslims – including a 76-year old man in a wheelchair, women, and even toddlers – were shot up and blown up in their bedclothes as the slept by US Marines. I learned about Abeer al-Janabi, a fourteen-year old Iraqi girl gang-raped by five American soldiers, who then shot her and her family in the head, then set fire to their corpses.”
“I just want to point out, as you can see, Muslim women don’t even show their hair to unrelated men. So try to imagine this young girl from a conservative village with her dress torn off, being sexually assaulted by not one, not two, not three, not four, but five soldiers.”
“Even today, as I sit in my jail cell, I read about the drone strikes which continue to kill Muslims daily in places like Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. Just last month, we all heard about the seventeen Afghan Muslims – mostly mothers and their kids – shot to death by an American soldier, who also set fire to their corpses.”
I mentioned Paul Revere – when he went on his midnight ride, it was for the purpose of warning the people that the British were marching to Lexington to arrest Sam Adams and John Hancock, then on to Concord to confiscate the weapons stored there by the Minuteman.”
By the time they got to Concord, they found the Minuteman waiting for them, weapons in hand. They fired at the British, fought them, and beat them. From that battle came the American Revolution. There’s an Arabic word to describe what those Minutemen did that day. That word is: JIHAD, and this is what my trial was about.”
“All those videos and translations and childish bickering over ‘Oh, he translated this paragraph’ and ‘Oh, he edited that sentence,’ and all those exhibits revolved around a single issue: Muslims who were defending themselves against American soldiers doing to them exactly what the British did to America.”
“It was made crystal clear at trial that I never, ever plotted to ‘kill Americans’ at shopping malls or whatever the story was. The government’s own witnesses contradicted this claim, and we put expert after expert up on that stand, who spent hours dissecting my every written word, who explained my beliefs.”
“Further, when I was free, the government sent an undercover agent to prod me into one of their little ‘terror plots,’ but I refused to participate. Mysteriously, however, the jury never heard this.”
A Final Comment
Tarek reflects the best of what America should be, but never was and isn’t now. He’ll suffer in prison. So do thousands of others wrongfully convicted. America’s gulag is notorious. It’s the world’s largest by far.
It’s the shame of the nation. It reflects repression, not justice. Those most vulnerable are victimized. Muslims are target one.
What kind of society criminalizes praying to the wrong God? What’s ahead if public rage won’t challenge it? Imagine the worst because it’s coming.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.