By Jim Kouri
A Massachusetts resident convicted last year of conspiracy to slay Americans and other criminal offenses was sentenced in Boston yesterday to 17.5 years in federal prison by U.S. District Court Judge George O’Toole.
Tarek Mehanna will serve 210 months to be followed by seven years of supervised release. In December 2011, 29-year old Mehanna was convicted by a jury — after 10 hours of deliberation — of four terrorism-related charges and three charges related to providing false information to the government, according to the Justice Department.
After a lengthy eight-week trial, Mehanna was convicted of conspiracy to provide material support to al- Qaeda, providing material support to terrorists (and conspiracy to do so), conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country, conspiracy to make false statements to the FBI, and two counts of making false statements, according to court documents.
While Mehanna was being held in a federal detention center, members of the Occupy Boston movement protested his incarceration and displayed their solidarity with Mehanna and his co-conspirators.
According to the trial testimony, Mehanna and his co-conspirators discussed initiating to a bloody and violent jihad against Americans and American interests and their willingness to die fighting the United States for Allah.
Mehanna and his fellow terrorists attempted to radicalize others and inspire each other by, among other things, watching and distributing jihadi videos. Mehanna and two of his associates traveled to the Middle East in 2004, seeking military-type training at a terrorist training camp that would prepare them for armed jihad against U.S. interests, including U.S. and allied forces in Iraq. One of Mehanna’s co-conspirators made two similar trips to Pakistan in 2002, according to testimony by law enforcement officials.
After returning to the United States, Mehanna continued his efforts to provide material support by, among other things, translating and posting on the Internet al Qaeda recruitment videos and other documents, according to the Justice Department report.
In December 2006, Mehanna was interviewed by federal authorities regarding a trip by Mehanna, Ahmad Abousamra, and another individual to Yemen in 2004. During that interview, Mehanna provided false information and made fraudulent and fictitious statements about the purpose of that trip and his relationship with co-conspirator Daniel Joseph Maldonado, aka Daniel Aljughaifi. Mehanna lied to the FBI concerning where Maldonado was living at the time and what Maldonado was doing, the court records state.
According to the trial records, just a few days prior to the FBI interview, Mehanna received a call from Maldonado, who was in Somalia receiving military-type training for jihad. Mehanna admitted in recorded conversations that he had lied to the FBI about Maldonado’s whereabouts and training in Somalia. Mehanna also lied to the FBI concerning his trip to Yemen in 2004. Mehanna did, in fact, go to Yemen with Abousamra and another individual to conduct, and to subsequently engage in, jihad.
In 2007, Maldonado entered a guilty plea in Texas and admitted that he had traveled from Houston to Africa in November 2005 and then on to Somalia in December 2006 to join the Islamic Courts Union and elements of al-Qaeda to fight against the Transitional Federal Government to establish an independent Islamic State in Somalia. Maldonado was sentenced to 10 years in prison, the maximum statutory penalty for receiving military training from a terrorist organization.
According to U.S. Justice Department officials, the case was investigated by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) members: Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs Border Protection, the Massachusetts State Police, and the Lowell, Massachusetts Police Department, in addition to other members of the FBI’s JTTF. The JTTF includes officers and agents from a number of other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.