11/07/2011 4:07 PM
By Milton J. Valencia and Martin Finucane, Globe Staff
Tarek Mehanna’s lawyers today unsuccessfully sought to exclude graphic videos of the World Trade Center twin towers burning and of beheadings by terrorists from Mehanna’s federal trial on charges of supporting Al Qaeda in Iraq.
“It adds nothing. It’s just designed to shock and appall the jurors, as any of us would be appalled,” said attorney J.W. Carney Jr., who is representing the young man from Sudbury.
Carney employed the odd tactic of likening his client to a racist who is charged with murder even though there is no evidence of murder, just evidence that he sent hate messages.
“One of the goals of the prosecution is to mention Osama bin Laden as much as possible and to mention the twin towers as much as possible,” Carney told Judge George O’Toole after the jury had been sent out of the courtroom.
Prosecutors said Mehanna had translated and distributed videos as part of his work as the “media wing” of Al Qaeda in Iraq.
The judge twice denied Carney’s request for a mistrial.
Mehanna faces charges that include conspiring to support a terror organization, providing support to terrorists, conspiracy to kill in a foreign country, and lying to a federal agent. An Egyptian-American with a degree from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy who was born in Pennsylvania and grew up in Sudbury, Mehanna aces a maximum possible sentence of life in prison.
Prosecutors say that after unsuccessfully trying to enlist as a terrorist on a trip to Yemen, Mehanna decided to assist Al Qaeda in Iraq by distributing over the Internet materials he hoped would incite violence.
Defense attorneys argue that Mehanna was neither a member of Al Qaeda nor a terrorist. They say he was an American citizen who was critical of US foreign policy and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — and simply exercising his constitutional right to free speech.