Conflict & Justice

US national Tarek Mehanna convicted of aiding Al Qaeda

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In this handout image provided by the Sudbury Police Department, Tarek Mehanna poses for a mugshot photo October 21, 2009. Mehanna was arrested on federal terrorism charges.

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Tarek Mehanna, a 29-year-old Egyptian-American, was found guilty of supporting Al Qaeda by a federal jury in Boston on Tuesday, the Boston Globe reported.

Mehanna was found guilty on all seven counts against him, including conspiring to support Al Qaeda, conspiring to kill in a foreign country, and three counts of lying to federal agents. He has been held without bail since his arrest in November of 2009.

Mehanna lived in the Boston suburb of Sudbury, and received a pharmacy degree from a Boston college. He had traveled with two friends to Yemen in 2004, where prosecutors said he sought training to carry out jihad, or holy war, against American soldiers in Iraq, the BBC reported.

He failed to find a training camp, and returned to the United States, where he translated Al-Qaeda propaganda about jihad into English and spread it online. FBI agents said they found multiple documents on his computer that had been translated, including “39 Ways to Make and Participate in Jihad,” a call to action for Muslims written by a member of Al Qaeda, the Boston Globe reported. 

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Defense lawyers argued that their client was not a terrorist but a scholar of Islam, looking to broaden his knowledge of the religion and of Arabic so that he could translate classical texts. They said Mehanna had a First Amendment right to express his own beliefs about American foreign policy and Islam, and argued that he never worked in partnership with any terror organization, the Boston Globe reported

However, several of Mehanna’s friends testified against him. They said he endorsed September 11th's terrorist attacks and that his ideology had become increasingly extreme.

The case against Mehanna has lasted over two months, with 31 days of testimonies, the Globe reported. The jury had deliberated for a total of almost 10 hours on Friday, Monday, and Tuesday.

Mehanna's sentencing is set for April 12, and could put him in prison for the rest of his life.