Tarek Mehanna: Free speech at issue in alleged terrorist’s trial

Supporters of Tarek Mehanna wore yellow scarves outside the John Joseph Moakley Federal Courthouse in solidarity with Mehanna who is is standing trial for allegedly providing support to terrorist organizations.

It didn’t take long for federal prosecutors to attempt to link accused terrorist Tarek Mehanna to one of the world’s most famous terrorism leaders.

Prosecutor Aloke Chakravarty used Osama bin Laden’s name in the first sentence of his opening statement during Mehanna’s trial Thursday.

“About 10 years ago, Osama bin Laden issued a call to arms,” he said. “This trial is about how this man answered that call.”

Mehanna, 29, of Sudbury, is charged with providing material support to terrorist organizations, including al-Qaeda.

Prosecutors accused Mehanna of traveling to Yemen to attempt to enter a terrorist training camp, but he failed to do so. Instead, he returned home and translated terrorist propaganda in to English to spread a message of jihad, prosecutors said.

“He viewed himself as part of the media department for al-Qaeda,” Chakravarty said.

In e-mails intercepted by federal agents, officials said he often talked about his discontent for America and used code words like “making peanut butter and jelly” in place of jihad.

But Mehanna’s defense attorney, J.W. Carney, Jr., said the young man was viewed as a “scholar” who kept scores of books on Islam in his bedroom.

Carney said Mehanna’s expressions of frustration about America’s war in Iraq is not illegal.

Mehanna draws support

About three dozen supporters filed out of packed courtrooms Thursday after watching the opening statements for Mehanna’s trial.

They held signs that said “Free Tarek” and wore yellow scarves to show their support for him. They were not allowed to wear the scarves inside the courtroom.

Jason Lydon, a Mehanna supporter from the Community Church of Boston, called the trial a result of “Islamophobic charges.”



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