Tarek Mehanna is an American pharmacist 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. He was sentenced in April 2012 to 17 years in federal prison.[1]

Tarek Mehanna
Known forhis translation of jihadist documents resulted in a conviction of providing material support to terrorism

Early lifeEdit

Mehanna was born in Pennsylvania[2] and grew up in Sudbury, Massachusetts, a small town near Boston. His parents emigrated to the United States from Egypt in 1980.[3]

Terrorist activitiesEdit

In 2004, Mehanna spent two weeks in Yemen, where prosecutors proved that he tried but failed to seek out training in a militant training camp, with the aim of going to Iraq fighting with Iraqis against the US-led invasion and occupation. When he returned to the US, Mehanna began to translate and post online materials described by prosecutors as Al-Qaeda propaganda.[4] Mehanna has said that he supports the right of Muslims to defend themselves.[5] His lawyers argued that his internet activities were protected under the U.S. First Amendment.[6]

Trial and convictionEdit

US Attorney Carmen Ortiz led the prosecution of Mehanna. In April 2012, Mehanna was sentenced in federal court in Boston on four terrorism-related charges and three others related to lying to FBI and other U.S. federal officials. Before his sentence was determined, he made a statement described by journalists as "eloquent,"[5] and "passionate,"[7] the text of which was afterwards widely circulated online.[8][9]

Following Mehanna's sentencing, the ACLU released a statement saying that the suppression of unpopular ideas is contrary to American values, and that the verdict undermines the First Amendment.[10] Specifically, it stated, "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."

Mehanna appealed his case to the First Circuit Court of Appeals[11] — he lost. Judge Bruce Selya, writing for the 3-judge panel, found for the Government, saying that Mehanna had been "fairly tried, justly convicted, and lawfully sentenced."[12] "We think it virtually unarguable that rational jurors could find that the defendant and his associates went abroad to enlist in a terrorist training camp," the opinion said.[12]

Oral argument for the appeal was held on July 30, 2013 in Boston,[13] and the opinion issued on Nov. 13 of that year. At oral argument, Mehanna's side was argued by P. Sabin Willett, and the United States was represented by Liza Collery of the Department of Justice.[14]

Mehanna appealed his case to the Supreme Court on March 17, 2014.[15]

On March 18, 2014, Lyle Denniston of Scotusblog profiled the case, focusing on the Supreme Court appeal.[16] The Supreme Court has the discretion to choose whether or not to review cases from lower courts, and has no obligation to explain these decisions. The Department of Justice's response brief was filed on July 25, 2014.[17]

Denniston reported that Mehanna's lawyers would argue that while Mehanna was philosophically sympathetic to the tenets of al Qaeda, his translation of the documents was spontaneous — was not done at anyone's request, and this meant the translations weren't part of al Qaeda's operations.[16]

On October 6, 2014, the Court announced that it declined to review the case, thereby upholding Mehanna's conviction. [18]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ FBI (April 12, 2012). "USA v. Mehanna et al". Retrieved Mar 24, 2014. Tarek Mehanna Sentenced in Boston to 17 Years in Prison on Terrorism-Related Charges
  2. ^ Lovering, Daniel (12 April 2012). "Massachusetts man convicted of aiding al Qaeda to be sentenced". Reuters U.S. Edition. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
  3. ^ "US man gets 17 years prison on terror charges". Agence France Presse. 13 April 2012. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
  4. ^ Crimaldi, Laura (12 April 2012). "US man sentenced in plot to help al-Qaida". The Daily Star (Lebanon). Retrieved 17 April 2012.
  5. ^ a b Caputi, Ross (16 April 2012). "Tarek Mehanna: punished for speaking truth to power". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
  6. ^ Ariosto, David (12 April 2012). "Man gets 17½-year prison term in Massachusetts terror case". CNN. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
  7. ^ Holmes, Rick (16 April 2012). "RICK HOLMES: Incapacitating Tarek Mehanna". Taunton Daily Gazette. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
  8. ^ Greenwald, Glenn (13 April 2012). "The real criminals in the Tarek Mehanna case". Salon magazine. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
  9. ^ Valencia, Milton J. (13 April 2012). "Mehanna gets more than 17 years in jail". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
  10. ^ "Mehanna Verdict Compromises First Amendment, Undermines National Security". American Civil Liberties Union. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
  11. ^ United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts (April 13, 2013). "USA v. Mehanna et al". Archived from the original on July 3, 2013. Retrieved July 3, 2013. #433: NOTICE OF APPEAL by Tarek Mehanna in re 432 Judgment
  12. ^ a b United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (Nov 13, 2013). "Opinion: USA v. Mehanna". Missing or empty |url= (help)
  13. ^ United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (June 18, 2013). "US v. Mehanna". Archived from the original on July 3, 2013. Retrieved July 3, 2013. CASE calendared: Tuesday, 07/30/2013 AM Boston, MA Panel Courtroom.
  14. ^ United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (June 19, 2013). "US v. Mehanna". Archived from the original on July 3, 2013. DESIGNATION of attorney presenting oral argument filed by Attorney Peter Sabin Willett for Appellant Tarek Mehanna
  15. ^ Supreme Court of the United States. "No. 13-1125: Mehanna v. United States". Retrieved March 24, 2014.
  16. ^ a b Lyle Denniston (2014-03-18). "Challenging use of advocacy as terrorism". Scotusblog. Archived from the original on 2014-03-19. On Monday, lawyers for a U.S. citizen asked the Court to confront that very issue in a case that has achieved wide notoriety and stirred civil liberties protests. It is the case of Tarek Mehanna, of Sudbury, Mass., who was sentenced to seventeen years and six months in prison after being convicted by a Boston jury of several charges of providing "material support" to the Al Qaeda terrorist network.
  17. ^ United States Solicitor General (July 25, 2014). "Tarek Mehanna v. United States: Brief for the United States in Opposition (cert. stage)".
  18. ^ "Order list: 547 U.S." (PDF). October 6, 2014.

External linksEdit