By Jim Kouri
A federal jury in Boston convicted a Massachusetts man of four terrorism-related charges and three charges related to providing false information to the government after only a 10-hour deliberation, according to reports obtained by the National Association of Chiefs of Police.
Twenty-nine year old Tarek Mehanna faces up to life in prison after being 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.
The indictment alleges that “…beginning on or about 2001 and continuing until on or about the date of the return of the superseding indictment, MEHANNA conspired with … others, to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, namely al Qaeda, by agreeing with … co-conspirators to provide personnel, expert advice and assistance, services, and other assistance.”
Carmen M. Ortiz, U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, said, “Following weeks of testimony and evidence, a jury of Mr. Mehanna’s peers have rendered a just verdict of guilty. I want to commend the investigators and prosecutors who have worked tirelessly on this case, and who also work day after day serving the interests of the public to ensure the integrity of our national security. Preventing a terrorist attack is our number one priority, and as a result of their hard work, a potential threat has been eliminated.”
During the course of the nearly eight week trial, the jurors heard testimony that Mehanna and co-conspirators discussed their desire to participate in violent jihad against American interests, and talked about fighting jihad and their desire to die on the battlefield. The co-conspirators 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 February 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.
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.
In December 2006, Mehanna was interviewed by federal authorities regarding a trip by Mehanna, 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. 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 pleaded guilty in the Southern District of Texas, admitting 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 “jihad” 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.
Mehanna faces up to life in prison on the charge of conspiracy to kill in a foreign country, up to 15 years in prison on the charges of providing material support and conspiring to do so, up to eight years in prison on each of the charges of making false statement, and up to three years on the charge of conspiracy to make false statements. All counts carry up to three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.
The case was investigated by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) members: Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection, the Massachusetts State Police and the Lowell Police Department, in addition to other members of the FBI’s JTTF.