Witness: Terror suspect Tarek Mehanna suspected there was a spy among his friends
11/08/2011 3:20 PM
By Milton J. Valencia, Globe Staff
After being approached by FBI agents investigating his activities, alleged terror supporter Tarek Mehanna in 2006 apparently began to suspect that one of his friends was a government informant, an agent testified today at Mehanna’s trial in federal court.
Mehanna, 29, of Sudbury allegedly told a friend in an Internet chat that one of their associates on a Web forum knew information about him that he shouldn’t have, and he advised the friend to be careful.
“You never know with these things,” Mehanna wrote to his friend in May 2006, according to the testimony of FBI agent Christian Fierabend, who read from a transcript of the Internet chats.
“Remember, I’m being watched,” Mehanna said, according to Fierabend.
Lawyers for Mehanna have contended that FBI agents tried to spy on Mehanna and unsuccessfully tried to recruit him as an informant before charging him in federal court.
But prosecutors have contended that an investigation by counterterrorism agents led straight to Mehanna, who was distributing materials on the Internet that he hoped would inspire terrorist violence.
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 faces 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.