Judge asked to deny bail for Massachusetts terrorist suspect
A federal prosecutor says the Sudbury man charged with plotting terrorist attacks poses a danger to the public and should remain behind bars while awaiting trial.
Tarek Mehanna, 27, is an extremist who has no regard for law, Assistant U.S. Attorney Aloke S. Chakravarty told U.S. Magistrate Judge Leo Sorokin at a detention hearing Thursday. Chakravarty said Mehanna is a flight risk.
Mehanna, said Chakravarty, joked with his friends that he preferred watching footage of beheadings to “American Idol.” Mehanna would rather go out “in a blaze of glory” than spend life behind bars, the prosecutor said.
Authorities allege Mehanna plotted to kill politicians and shoot up shopping malls.
In their court filings, prosecutors provided excerpts of alleged online conversations Mehanna had with friends in which they talk about their admiration for Osama bin Laden and the 19 hijackers in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Mehanna allegedly refers to the hijackers as the “19 martyrs.”
Prosecutors say Mehanna and his friends seem “almost amused” by videos of captured westerners, including former Christian Science Monitor reporter Jill Carroll, who was kidnapped in Baghdad on Jan. 7, 2006. She was released after more than 80 days of captivity.
J.W. Carney, the Sudbury man’s lawyer, pushed for house arrest with the stipulation Mehanna have no Internet access.
Mehanna has been held without bail since his Oct. 21 arrest at his parents’ Sudbury home.
Sorokin took the matter under advisement and will make a decision later.
Shackled at the ankles and dressed in prison orange, Mehanna – a 2000 graduate of Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School – waved, smiled, and flashed a “No. 1” sign at his family before the hearing in the fifth-floor courtroom of the John J. Moakley federal courthouse. He blew two kisses to his mother after the hearing.
After the proceedings, Carney criticized the prosecution’s portrayal of his client. “The government tried to use every vehicle of character assassination to paint a distorted picture,” he said.
Carney said Mehanna was charged only after he refused to become an FBI informant against Muslims.
Carney framed the case as a battle over freedom of speech. Such a tenet, he said, is “designed to protect unpopular speech,” and occasionally Mehanna “has made unpopular speech.”
Mehanna, according to court documents, translated into English a publication titled, “39 Ways to Serve and Participate in Jihad.” Investigators also allege he penned, under an alias, a poem titled “Make Martyrdom What You Seek.”
Mehanna, who taught at an Islamic middle school in Worcester County, holds a doctorate degree from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.
He faces life in prison if convicted. Authorities say his alleged plans of violence were abandoned because Mehanna, his alleged co-conspirator Ahmad Abousamra, and a third unnamed suspect who is cooperating with authorities, were told by their Middle East weapons source that automatic guns could not be delivered.
The three also wanted to travel to Yemen and enlist in a terrorist training camp, according to court documents.
Mehanna and Abousamra, a 1999 Stoughton High School graduate, are charged with providing material support to terrorists, conspiring to provide material support to terrorists, conspiracy to kill in a foreign country, conspiracy to provide false information to law enforcement and six counts of making false statements to law enforcement.