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Tarek Mehanna: US Muslim Terrorist or Critic?

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US Government Needs to Revisit its Policies towards Muslims
By Tarek Mehanna
Editor’s Note: In an OnIslam.net’s attempt to shed light on the status of US Muslims’ civil rights, Tarek Mehanna’s case stands out as an important example of what many Muslim youth are suffering from nowadays while living in the US. Dr. Mehanna was sentenced to 17.5 years in prison in April 2012 after the court found him to be guilty of conspiracy and of giving material support for terrorism. His case got a lot of media attention, yet unfortunately many other cases do not. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) issued a statement declaring that the verdict “undermines the First Amendment.” This article was written by Tarek in February 2012 on his cause’s website www.freetarek.com.
Tarek-Mehanna-460x307
Tarek Mehanna is a 29 year old Muslim Egyptian-American and graduate of the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. (Reuters)
Tarek Mehanna: US Muslim Terrorist or Critic?

My arrest and trial had little to do with “terrorism.”

The overwhelming majority of “terrorism” cases in America can fit into a category in which the FBI picks the gullible Muslim youth, sends an undercover agent to “befriend” him, and over a period of time, prod him to agree to carry out some attack. The agreement is recorded on tape. The undercover FBI agent offers the kid weapons, and arrests him as soon as he is about to proceed with the so-called “plot.” While the intended impression is that the Feds swooped in to save the day, the reality is that they “foiled” their own plot. An artificial victory, and this is the formula which you see every other day when you read the news, whose purpose is to compensate for the lack of authentic “terror plots.”

Befriend, Convince, and Bust

The government attempted this strategy with me, but failed. This has been one of the most underreported aspects of my case, despite it being in the public record. This is what happened:

In late 2005, I was approached by an individual whom I’d never met. Over the course of two years, he attempted to befriend me, and gradually began shifting otherwise mundane conversations to suggesting the need to “do something.” Eventually, this “something” that he was hounding me to “do” emerged as a plan of his to find American soldiers returning from Iraq (whose addresses he supposedly had) and kill them. He would show up at my house uninvited, and always try to steer the conversation in this directions, and I would steer it away and bury it, but he would never give up. Finally, I told this individual to never contact me again.

Over the course of two years, he attempted to befriend me, and gradually began shifting otherwise mundane conversations to suggesting the need to “do something.”

Two years later, I found myself here in a Plymouth jail awaiting trial on terrorism charges. From day one, I related this to my lawyers, and that I was 100% sure this had been an attempt by the FBI to entrap me in one of their artificial “plots” so that they could have additional firepower in this case. But my lawyers explained that without some acknowledgement from the government, it would be impossible to prove. So we filed numerous motions over the course of the two years before trial requesting exculpatory evidence (i.e., evidence that would be in my favor) from the government regarding this, but they feigned ignorance, and said that they had nothing.

Finally, in the early summer of 2011, my lawyer, Jay Carney, got a call from an Associated Press reporter who said that two sources within the NYPD had contacted her and confirmed to her that the NYPD had sent an undercover agent up to Boston to “befriend” me, and try to prod me into carrying out a “terrorist attack,” and that I had refused to go along (bingo!). Furthermore, these sources in the NYPD told this journalist that when the prosecutors in my case found out about this — the same prosecutors at my trial, Aloke Chakravarty and Jeffrey Auerhahn — they became frantic and called the NYPD to come up to Boston for a meeting, where they admonished them for “interfering” in my case. With this information, my lawyers filed an additional motion asking the judge to compel the government to disclose these details so that they could be mentioned at trial — the logic being that this is a “terrorism” trial, and here was an attempt by the government to actually push me to carry out an act of “terrorism,” and I had refused, and they were trying to cover this up. The motion was filed on July 15th, 2011.

No Evidence

A hearing took place in court on August 3rd, 2011 to discuss this. A number of other motions were discussed first, then at the end, Jay got up to argue this one. He mentioned to the judge that we were seeking exculpatory evidence from the government, as they had thus far given us none. And then he mentioned that from the items we sought were details of an attempt by the NYPD to prod me to engage in a domestic attack, which I refused, etc. This was apparently the first the prosecutors knew that we were privy to this, and the surprise was evident on their faces. The judge asked them if they knew anything about this, and Mr. Chakravarty’s response was an ambiguous “we have no information from our office on this, and it is the defendant who should know;” to which Jay stood up again, faced Mr. Chakravarty, and asked: “So you’re willing to say, on record, before the court, that no members of the NYPD came up to Boston at any time to meet with you to discuss an attempt to prod Tarek Mehanna to engage in an act of terrorism that he refused to go along with?” The prosecutor’s response, verbatim, was: “Well, I didn’t say that either…”

[US District Court Judge George A. O’Toole Jr.] said he would wait to rule on the motion, and immediately, the prosecutors requested a private meeting with him in the judge’s chambers. He granted their request. My lawyers stood outside the judge’s door as the prosecutors walked in and protested: “Well, that’s not fair. How are you going to meet with the judge privately about this motion, and we have no idea what is being said?” But the judge met with them for almost 20 minutes. We will never know what was said in that meeting, but the next morning, O’Toole denied our motion, and that was the last anyone had ever heard of it: nothing about this topic was allowed to be mentioned to the jury at trial. Not a single word.

A brief mention of the motion and the hearing was made in an August 4th 2011 article in the Boston Globe, written by Milton Valencia. But the article was published before O’Toole had officially denied the motion. This was the only media attention that this incident received.

Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t

UntitledIn the end, you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Conversely, the baseless “shopping mall plot” received the lion’s share of media attention, and was freely introduced at trial by the government. The progression of this particular story is interesting, and quite telling as to how dishonest the government is:

-October 21st, 2009: I’m introduced to the world as having plotted to gun down shoppers at a local mall.

-10/21/09 to 10/24/11: The two year period before my trial: not a single additional detail is presented about this.

-My trial: Not only was no evidence presented to support this, but the government’s own witnesses admitted that I never participated in any such discussions, and that I in fact spoke against such ideas.

-Closing arguments at trial: The prosecutor backtracks, and says that even if these were not my ideas, that I knew people who had these ideas was enough.

In the end, you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. At this point, it should be clear that my trial was about many things, but it was not about “terrorism.”

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Related Links:
US Muslims for Civil Liberties
US Muslim Civil Rights in 2012 Elections

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