The following was written concerning the first day of jury selection in the case of Dr. Tarek Mehanna, held on October 24’th, 2011.
NOTE: All quotes are paraphrased. Any and all errors are unintentional.
Trial of Tariq Mehanna
[Pre-Trial DAY 1 of 3]
Today was the first day of jury selection for Dr. Tarek Mehanna. For unknown reasons, the session started approximately one hour late. The courtroom itself was filled to brim with people of diverse affiliations, including supporters, mainstream and alternative media, federal agents, the curious among the general public, and others. So strong was the turnout that many supporters had to quite literally squeeze into the benches. Noticeably different was the seating position of counsel. The defense team (consisting of five lawyers) was seated to the left, directly next to the jury box. The prosecutors (three in total) were seated to the right. American intelligence officials (namely the F.B.I.), also made a strong showing, with several of their staff occupying the back benches.
The brief intermission preceding the initiation of jury selection provided ample time for supporters to observe the behavior of the prosecutors, who seemed oddly restless or unsettled. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Auerhahn, on no less than two occasions, stalked out of the courtroom abruptly and oscillated around the restrooms near the main elevators. Assistant U.S. Attorney. Aloke Chakravarty alternated between standing against the government’s table and pacing restlessly, until the Judge entered the room. Every few minutes, he would be found spinning around, alternating his glances between the ceiling and Tariq’s supporters. Courtroom staff were popping in and out of doors continuously; for what is presumed a bastion of order, the degree of chaos characterizing the trial initiation process was surprising.
Tariq was brought into the courtroom shackled, but dressed in a pinstripe suit over a pressed shirt. Audibly addressing his family & supporters, “AS-SALAAMU ‘ALAIKUM WA RAHMAT-ALLAHEE WA BARAKAAT-UHU!” [peace be upon you, and the mercy of Allah, and his blessings], his growing smile and copious (but well groomed) beard became clearly visible. Eventually, once Judge O’Toole entered, approximately 60 potential jurors filed into the courtroom. Addressing them in a light spirited manner, the Judge asked them how they were doing. Seeing that they were softspoken, he repeated his inquiry, this time barreling his arm in the air, and placing it on his ear in a manner reminiscent of Hulk Hogan.
Arriving to the matter at hand (i.e. Tariq), he then proceeded to apprise jurors of the broad terms of the case, reminding them that, “This is of course a U.S. Federal court …“. As pertains to the official charges filed against Tariq by the United States, the Judge noted that four of them:
1. Participating in a conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization (i.e. Al-Qaeda)
2. Conspiring with others, to participate in, a conspiracy to provide, material support to an unspecified foreign terrorist organization in order to kidnap, murder, or maim outside the U.S.
3. Providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization (i.e. Al-Qaeda)
4. Conspiring to kill in a foreign country.
relate to what is commonly referred to as “terrorism”. As for the remaining three charges:
5. Conspiring with others to lie to federal officials.
6. [Cited Case] Lying to a federal official.
7. [Cited Case] Lying to a federal official.
relate to lying to federal officials. After relating the above, Judge O’Toole stated, “We want an impartial jury with no prejudices.” Introducing each member of both legal teams, he eventually arrived to Tariq, asking him to turn around and allow the potential jurors to see him clearly. With that, he began the first line of questioning, asking jurors to stand to indicate a ‘yes’:
(A.) Do you know anyone involved in this case? (0)
(B.) Do you know anyone in law enforcement? (~ 20 answered ‘yes’)
(C.) Have you ever been a victim of a crime? (~5 answered ‘yes’)
(D.) Have you ever been accused of a crime? (~6 answered ‘yes’)
(E.) Have you served in the U.S. Military in the past 10 years? (~10 answered yes)
(F.) Can you speak, read, write, or understand Arabic? (0)
(G.) Have you ever been involved in computer forensics? (~3 answered yes)
Closing the public portion of the jury selection, Judge O’Toole reminded everyone that Tariq has a right to be tried, “… not by government officials, but by fellow citizens.” Following this statement, the lengthy process of speaking individually to the potential jurors started. Five by five, they would be called to meet with Judge O’Toole, both legal teams, and Tariq: face to face. This essentially left the media, family, supporters, and F.B.I. with nothing to do but wait. Several members took the time to pray, while others waited in the hopes of seeing Tariq before he was returned to isolation in Plymouth, MA. After about 7 hours, family and friends were informed the session had ended, and that Tariq was not being brought out. Walking past a mob of cameramen, supporters observed three solid black U.S. Marshall vans leaving the courthouse at breakneck speed … sirens blazing. One of them was carrying Tariq.
Jury selection is expected to continue through Wednesday (10/26), with opening statements set to begin on Thursday (10/27). To the delight of many, supporters noticed several signs that the American prosecutors are losing their confidence.
10.21.09 … never forget … never surrender!