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Holmes & Co.: “Tarek Mehanna, Political Prisoner” by Rick Holmes


2011 December 20

by Rick Holmes

I haven’t sat through every day of a trial since my cub reporter days, and ever since then I’ve tried not to second-guess a jury based on my own limited exposure to the evidence.  My resolve is sorely tested bytoday’s verdict finding Tarek Mehanna guilty on all counts.

As I’ve argued before, Mehanna was never accused of committing violence or anything close to an actual act of terrorism. The prosecutors never provided evidence that he had any real contact with any members of al Qaeda or any other terrorist organization. That should have been enough to win an acquittal on the conspiracy counts, since the judge instructed the jury that “in order to find Mehanna guilty of conspiracy to provide material support to al-Qaida, they must find that he worked “in coordination with or at the direction of” the terrorist organization. ”

I had assumed that the jury, which heard testimony for months, would have a more clear picture of Tarek as a person than your average Fox News viewer. He was born in the U.S. and raised as an ordinary American kid. He sat on Santa’s lap at Christmas time, his family apparently not having gotten the memo that only Christians can celebrate the holidays. He was a huge Nirvana fan, his brother told NPR, bringing an obsession to his study of grunge that he later turned to his study of Islamic philosophy.  He got interested in politics after his history teacher at Lincoln-Sudbury HS turned him on to Howard Zinn. He dallied with extreme Islamist theory, and talked with his buddies about the greatness of Osama bin Laden. He was outraged by the invasion of Iraq. All the time, the FBI was listening, having used the “sneak and peek” provisions of the Patriot Act to break into his home and plant bugs while the family was away. The NPR piece (sorry I can’t find a link) interviewed people, including his students at a Worcester Islamic center, who said Tarek had mellowed and matured, as most people do between their early and their late 20′s, and was seen as a voice of Muslim moderation.

Doesn’t matter. The feds rounded up Tarek’s friends and got them to start rolling over on each other.  As one friend, who had pleaded guilty to a lesser charge in return for his testimony,  told the jury, the feds “decide when I can see my son.”

Tarek Mehanna will be sentenced in the spring to as much as life in prison for the crimes of translating religious documents from Arabic to English, for thinking politically incorrect thoughts, for traveling to Yemen and back (not that he did anything there except discover what a pit it was) and for having conversations with his friends that led to nothing. He is a political prisoner, and this trial is a shame and an outrage.

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5 Comments on “Holmes & Co.: “Tarek Mehanna, Political Prisoner” by Rick Holmes”

  1. Steve Roberts December 20, 2011 at 8:03 pm #

    I, too, have followed the trial closely. The jury obviously believed that he had traveled to Yemen to join a terrorist cell, and that he was encouraging others to kill American soldiers in Iraq. Anything else is simply not as important. Given that, I think his friends and family can help him out by encouraging him to acknowledge what he did, express remorse, including explaining that he no longer would encourage others to kill American soldiers, and appeal to the judge for a lenient sentence. Otherwise, he is likely to spend the rest of his life in prison.

    • KBJ December 21, 2011 at 2:29 pm #

      Actually, Steve, Tarek and his supporters will do no such thing. We stand by him and are proud of him. He knows he is innocent; why would he express remorse for something he hasn’t done? We are going to appeal this decision. We take justice very seriously; we don’t just give up when we hit a road block. We pick ourselves up and keep fighting.

  2. umar December 20, 2011 at 11:32 pm #

    very well said. Political prisoner. May Allah (swt) protect us Muslims. Ameen.

  3. umar December 20, 2011 at 11:33 pm #

    may Allah (swt) free tarek and all of our Muslim prisoners. Ameen.

  4. MJ December 22, 2011 at 12:13 am #

    The feds are testing how far they can strip Americans from their constitutional protections. Americans should be up in arms about this verdict.

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