Tarek Mehanna, a Massachusetts Muslim man convicted of conspiring to help Al-Qaeda, was sentenced Thursday to 17 1/2 years in prison after giving an impassioned speech in which he declared his love for Islam and said, ‘This is not terrorism; it’s self-defense.’
Tarek Mehanna, 29, an American who grew up in the wealthy Boston suburb of Sudbury, was found guilty in December of traveling to Yemen to seek training in a terrorist camp with the intention of going on to Iraq to fight U.S. soldiers there. Mehanna was sentenced on four terror-related charges and three counts of lying to authorities. His family and supporters gave him a standing ovation and called out ‘we love you’ as he was led from the courtroom.
Boston Herald “His plan to murder American soldiers was thwarted not by capture or a change of heart, but only by his failure to find suitable training” during a 2004 trip to Yemen in pursuit of recruitment to a terrorist camp, prosecutors said in their 13-page sentencing memorandum.
Mehanna used the Internet to spread information about jihad and set up a blog where he posted English translations of Web pages devoted to influential jihad advocates and spiritual patrons in Afghanistan and Iraq, an affidavit said.
This morning, Mehanna gave a defiant and rambling address to the court.
“I never, ever plotted to kill Americans at shopping malls or anywhere else,” he said, twitching at his orange prison scrubs as he spoke for about 20 minutes in his first public statements since his 2009 arrest on terror charges. “Muslims should defend themselves against foreign invaders. This is not terrorism or extremism. It’s self-defense. The government prosecuted me not because they needed to, but simply because they could.”
Discussing “oppression,” he added: “It’s because of America that I am who I am.”
Mehanna also told the court he was prosecuted because he would not become an informant. Assistant U.S. Attorney Aloke Chakravarty told U.S. District Court Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. that Mehanna’s claims were “categorically false,” spurring an outburst by Mehanna.
“You’re a liar, you’re a liar!” Mehanna screamed from his chair.
In his own plea, Mehanna’s father, Ahmed Mehanna, wrote to the judge that his son, an American-born graduate of Lincoln-Sudbury High School, was upset by the “unjust persecution of Muslims throughout the world” in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and that “his view was amplified” by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, “and the bad advice of older Muslim friends surrounding him.”
Daily Mail During the sentencing hearing, Drama Queen Mehanna gave a sweep of history and compared the suffering experienced by Muslims at the hands of Americans to the oppression inflicted on American colonists by the British.
He mentioned Paul Revere, Malcolm X and Nelson Mandela, among others, and said he came to appreciate the plight of the oppressed against their oppressors as a 6-year-old boy reading comic books.
Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz called Mehanna’s remarks ‘disingenuous’ and said he came across as angry and defiant. ‘Trust me. Tarek Mehanna is no Nelson Mandela,’ Ortiz said.
U.S. District Court Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. said Mehanna had become consumed with his religion in a way that was horrifying.
Prosecutors asked for a 25-year prison sentence, saying he lived a ‘double life,’ appearing as a ‘dutiful and scholarly young man’ to his family and community, but in reality, he ‘was a proponent of violence as a means of achieving political goals.’
During the trial, Mehanna’s attorneys portrayed him as an aspiring scholar of Islam who traveled to Yemen to look for religious schools.