What a disgrace. On Thursday, Tarek Mehanna, a 29-year old pharmacist from Sudbury, Massachusetts, was sentenced to 17 and half years in prison, after being found guilty in December on seven charges, including “providing material support to terrorists,” conspiracy to kill in a foreign country and lying to law enforcement officers. Perhaps that sounds appropriate, but as Nancy Murray of the ACLU explained in an article for the Boston Globe, the extent of his involvement in “terrorism” was that he had “emailed friends, downloaded videos, translated and posted documents on the web, and traveled to and from Yemen in 2004.”
She continued, “No evidence was presented in court directly linking him to a terrorist group. He never hatched a plot — indeed, he objected when a friend (who went on to become a government informer and has never been charged with anything) proposed plans to stage violent attacks within the United States. He never had a weapon.” Although Mehanna did lie to the FBI, there was no justification for prosecutor Aloke Chakravarty to stress the “gravity” of Mehanna’s offences, but it fitted — and fits — a pattern of demonizing Muslims, even when there are first amendment issues, involving free speech, even when there is evidence of dubious FBI activity, and even when it is undisputed that Tehanna never raised arms against anyone, and never believed that it was just or appropriate to attack any American on US soil.
According to Aloke Chakravarty, however, over ten years ago Tarek Mehanna “‘began to radicalize’” and to radicalize others to ‘visit violence’ on Americans,” The prosecutor also alleged that, although Mehanna “failed in his efforts to find a terrorist training camp when he visited Yemen in 2004, he found his niche … serving as the ‘media wing’ of al-Qaeda, translating documents, and sharing videos.”
In contrast, defense attorney Jay Carney pointed out that Mehanna was in fact being “punished for activity protected by the First Amendment, for translating documents freely available in Arabic on the Internet and for his refusal to be an informant.” Carney “asked the judge to focus on ‘what the defendant did and did not do’ — he went to Yemen for one week eight years ago. He refused to go to Iraq with the friend whom the government later enlisted as an informer. He was under close FBI scrutiny for more than eight years — if he was so dangerous, why did the FBI wait so long to arrest him?” Read the rest of this entry »
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