Saying that Tarek Mehanna became consumed with religious enthusiasm, a
federal judge on Thursday sentenced the 29-year-old Sudbury man to
nearly 18 years in prison.
Mehanna was convicted in December on terrorism charges including
providing material support to terrorists and conspiracy to kill
Americans in a foreign country.
"He has ... become consumed with
religious enthusiasm that was partly admirable and partly horrifying,"
said Judge George O'Toole Jr., who added that he was concerned by
Mehanna's absence of remorse.
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Mehanna gave a passionate speech in
court just before he was sentenced. He talked about his love and
devotion to Islam and compared his trial to Paul Revere's ride and the
battles of Lexington and Concord.
"There's a word in Arabic that
describes what the Minutemen did that day -- it is jihad. This is what
my trial was about," Mehanna said.
Prosecutors argued that Mehanna
should be sent to jail for decades in an attempt to discourage other
"homegrown, violent extremists" from taking up his cause.
conspire to take up arms against your country it deserves a severe
penalty," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Al Chakravarty.
indicted in 2009. He discussed a desire to participate in a violent
jihad against American targets, traveled to the Middle East to seek
terrorist training and translated and posted online al Qaeda recruitment
videos and other documents.
Before, during and after the trial,
Mehanna's supporters said his actions were an expression of his views,
that he was researching his religion and his intentions were never to
hurt anyone. His lawyers argued that his expressions in opposition to
the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were protected free speech.
His lawyer said they would file an appeal.
Issue with Islam?
Speaking after Tarek Mehanna was sentenced, his attorney, J.W. Carney Jr., suggested the trial might have been political.
"I wonder what Nelson Mandela's lawyer thought as he gave his speech before being sentenced. I bet he thought it was a criminal case ... but we now know it's a political case," Carney said.
Mehanna's supporters have also argued that he has been unfairly targeted by the government because of his religion and beliefs.
U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Carmen Ortiz said that is not the case.
"There is no different standard for Muslims," she said. "We are not engaged in an effort to prosecute Muslims."