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US man guilty of helping al-Qaida

A US man has been convicted of conspiring to help al-Qaida and plotting to kill US soldiers in Iraq.

Tarek Mehanna faced four terror-related charges and three charges of lying to authorities. A federal jury in Massachusetts has convicted him of all counts.

Prosecutors say Mehanna and two friends conspired to go to Yemen so they could receive training at a terrorist camp with the intention of going to Iraq to fight against US soldiers.

Prosecutors say when they could not find a camp, Mehanna returned home and began translating and distributing publications to promote violent jihad.

Mehanna's lawyers say he went to Yemen to look for religious schools and that his online activities were protected by the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of speech.

His mother and lawyers wept as Mehanna was found guilty of conspiring to help al-Qaida by translating and distributing publications and of plotting to kill US soldiers in Iraq.

Prosecutors said after failing to find the camp Mehanna began to see himself as part of the al-Qaida "media wing", translating and distributing publications to promote violent jihad.

His lawyers portrayed him as an aspiring scholar of Islam who travelled to Yemen to look for religious schools, not to get terrorist training. They said his translation and distribution of controversial publications was free speech protected by the First Amendment.

Mehanna will be sentenced April 12 and could be sent to prison for the rest of his life. His mother, Souad Mehanna, sobbed after the verdict was read. "I can't even think," said Mehanna's father, Ahmed, a professor at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. "It was political."

His lawyer JW Carney Jr said the defence team will appeal. He said he was upset with what he called the extraordinary leeway prosecutors had to present evidence the defence considered prejudicial, including references to al-Qaida and the September 11 attacks.

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