[Ppnews] Tarek Mehanna - terrorism or thought crimes?
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Nov 18 19:47:55 EST 2011
Terrorism or Thought Crimes?
<http://www.thecrimson.com/writer/1208359/Alex%20_R.%20_Shams/>Alex R. Shams
Published: Friday, November 18, 2011
The latest chapter in the assault on American civil liberties has
begun, and this time it is unfolding in a courthouse in downtown
of Tarek Mehanna , a young man from Sudbury, Massachusetts, has the
potential to redefine the limits of free speech within draconian
parameters that would essentially outlaw criticism of US foreign
policy by American citizens. At the same time, it represents a
general attack on Muslim-American communities, as it validates FBI
tactics of spying in mosques, pressuring young Muslims into acting as
informants, and the surveillance of American citizens under the
flimsiest of pretexts.
The trial of Tarek Mehanna at Moakley Courthouse for conspiracy and
"material support for terrorism" began on October 24. The date is
significant; October 26, 2011 marked 10 years since the passage of
the USA Patriot Act. This law has expanded the FBI's ability to spy
on American citizens with little or no oversight, legalizing secret
searches of private property, private medical records, Internet
usage, and anything else that leaves a record. The FBI does not even
need to show that there is sufficient cause for suspicion; instead,
as long as it claims the investigation is related to "terrorism," it
has writ large to search at will and use any evidence it finds in a
court of law.
This case is occurring within the larger context of a wider crackdown
on dissent against US foreign policy among Muslim communities in this
country. Mehanna was an active member of his local mosque, and he was
assertive and vocal in his criticisms of US foreign policy in the
Middle East. Talking about resistance is not a crime, and discussing
the right of Iraqis and Afghans to self-defense in a context of
occupation, a right recognized in the Geneva Convention, is protected
free speech. In an age of Islamophobic hysteria and fear at the
prospect of "homegrown terror," having the government pressure young
men at mosques to turn in their friends for talking about being angry
has become the new normal.
And for Tarek Mehanna, a doctor of pharmacy actively involved in
Internet forums protesting the American invasion of Iraq, this is
exactly what happened. After years of being pressured unsuccessfully
by the FBI to inform on his friends at his local mosque, Mehanna was
arrested for "lying to federal officials." This lying, of course, had
occurred during the process of trying to get the FBI to stop
harassing him, and the FBI subsequently let him go, conscious that
they lacked a coherent case. A year later, however, he was bundled
away in the early morning hours, this time to be kept in 23-hour a
day solitary confinement in a 10-foot by 15-foot cell at a
maximum-security prison; he has been in those conditions for more
than two years. The charges they added after his second arrest were
more serious and focused on providing "material support for terrorism."
These accusations, however, have been supported by shaky evidence at
best. In order to support allegations that Mehanna provided this
have drawn upon the wealth of Islamic legal texts that Mehanna
translated suggesting that Mehanna's translations were used by
"terrorists" to justify their actions. Mehanna is an avid scholar and
translator of medieval Islamic legal thought; as a translator, he is
not responsible for who reads his translations and what is done with
them. Independent translation is not material support for terrorism
by any stretch. In order to be considered material support under this
law, Mehanna would have had to translate under the direct order of a
designated foreign terrorist organization. He was once approached by
Al-Qaeda to help translate a document, a fact about which that the
prosecution is very vocal; what the prosecution fails to mention is
that Mehanna never translated said document. If you do not translate
something, Mehanna's defense counsel argues, is that the same as if you did?
Why then is Mehanna being prosecuted? The FBI has been clear about
this from the beginning. From 2005 to 2008, the FBI hounded Mehanna
and pressured him to become an informant, a period during which they
spied on him and his friends. They
to Mehanna's attorney in a 2008 telephone interview, "If your client
does not collaborate with us, we will make his life a living hell."
When one of Mehanna's friends buckled under FBI pressure in 2009 and
became an informant, Mehanna was arrested again.
The trial has been underway now for about three weeks, during which
the prosecution has repeatedly shown the court unrelated videos of
the September 11th attacks and footage of American military convoys
in Iraq being blown up. Their intent is clear: disagreeing with
American policies and advocating for Muslims to fight against the US
military's violent occupation of Muslim countries is terrorism. This
trial threatens to establish a chilling precedent for civil liberties
within the Muslim community as well as within America at large. It is
in the interest of our freedom that we must support Tarek Mehanna.
Alex R. Shams is an A.M. candidate in Middle Eastern Studies.
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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