Mehanna counseled nonviolence in ’06
Testifies for 3d day in terrorism trial
By Milton J. Valencia | GLOBE STAFF NOVEMBER 22, 2011
Tarek Mehanna told his close friend Daniel Maldonado during a get-together in Egypt in 2006 to think of his family, to resist the urge to join the violence growing in Somalia, Maldonado said yesterday in Mehanna’s terrorism trial in US District Court in Boston.
“He was discouraging you, and you were disappointed in his reaction, weren’t you?’’ asked Janice Bassil, an attorney for Mehanna.
Maldonado agreed. He said Mehanna told him, “Think about this; don’t take your wife to a place like Somalia right now.’’
Maldonado was later arrested by Kenyan authorities and was sentenced in a US court to 10 years in prison for undergoing terrorism training in Somalia. His wife died of malaria when they were there in late 2006.
In the third day of testimony by Maldonado, Bassil attempted to show in cross-examination of the high-profile witness that Mehanna was not the pro-jihad supporter of terrorism that prosecutors have portrayed, but rather a close friend who cited Islamic laws to express his beliefs.
Maldonado acknowledged under Bassil’s questioning that Mehanna had never traveled to Somalia to fight in an Islamic fundamentalist movement there, as Maldonado had done and requested of him.
He also agreed that Mehanna seemed to be maturing in his interpretation of Islamic law and that he was straying from the extreme views of their friend Ahmad Abousamra.
Mehanna “was concerned about Ahmad Abousamra’s attitude, was he not?’’ Bassil asked. “You even said he was growing up; he was growing up and away from Ahmad and his ideas; isn’t that correct?’’
Mehanna, a 29-year-old American citizen who was living with his parents in Sudbury when he was first arrested three years ago, is on trial on charges of conspiring to support terrorists and to kill in a foreign land and of lying to investigators.
Prosecutors say he conspired with Abousamra and a third man to travel to Yemen in 2004 to train in a terrorist camp so that they could carry out jihad. They failed to find a camp, but Mehanna, prosecutors say, returned home with a new determination to support Al Qaeda by translating and distributing material promoting the group’s ideology on the Internet, to spread its message in the West.
Abousamra was also charged, but he fled to Syria after he was questioned by the FBI several years ago. He is at large. The third man, Kareem Abuzahra, returned to the United States before making it to Yemen, after he reportedly learned that his father was sick. He is cooperating with authorities and is slated to testify against Mehanna.
In two previous days of testimony, Maldonado told jurors that he received advice from Mehanna after converting to Islam in 1999, and they became close friends. Mehanna was a young budding scholar, and they often discussed classical texts and Islamic jurisprudence.
Maldonado said they eventually shared the same views on jihad and the obligation of Muslims to defend themselves and their lands. That included fighting US troops in Iraq.
Maldonado said he was under the understanding that Mehanna traveled to Yemen seeking terrorism training in 2004, so he could fight in Iraq, though he learned the trip was unsuccessful.
Maldonado went to Somalia in 2006. He called Mehanna and told him to join him, saying he was fighting jihad as they had envisioned.
Under questioning by Bassil yesterday, Maldonado acknowledged he was disappointed in Mehanna when they met in the summer 2006 and he told him of his plan to travel to Somalia. Mehanna, he said, did not support him as he had expected.
Maldonado acknowledged that Mehanna seemed to have little interest in traveling to Somalia for jihad when Maldonado called him from the country in December 2006.
Mehanna had instead asked if there were any bookstores there and whether he could marry there. He also expressed concern about his parents.
Maldonado also acknowledged that he did not speak of Al Qaeda with Mehanna when discussing Somalia.