He always wanted to know what Islam permitted and what Islam forbade, was always quoting the Qur’an, and yet he ended up dedicated to promoting violent jihad on the Internet. How did he misunderstand the peaceful faith to which he had dedicated his life?
“Witness says Mehanna sought terror training,” by Milton J. Valencia and Martin Finucane for the Boston Globe, November 15:
A former friend of Tarek Mehanna told a jury in federal court yesterday that he brought the Sudbury native and two of his associates to Logan International Airport in 2004, so they could travel to Yemen to train in a terrorist camp.
Mehanna had believed “there was an obligation for Muslims to stand up and fight against the invasion in Iraq and US forces in Iraq,– Hassan Masood said, testifying yesterday in Mehanna’s terrorism trial in US District Court in Boston.
Masood added that the 29-year-old Mehanna and his two associates “found someone who was going to help them in Yemen. They wanted to go to Yemen to look for training camps there.–
Masood was the second former associate of Mehanna to testify in his terrorism trial, and he told jurors that he often spoke of violent jihad and watched violent videos with Mehanna and his close friends. They opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and glorified the terrorists behind the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Masood said.
He said Mehanna conspired with Ahmad Abousamra and Kareem Abuzahra to travel to Yemen, though Abuzahra did not complete the trip.
But Masood acknowledged under questioning by Mehanna’s lawyers that he may not have spoken to Mehanna about the trip to Yemen, that his primary source of information was Abousamra and that he assumed his associates had the same intent in seeking terrorism training.
He agreed with the lawyers that Mehanna seemed to be more interested in his studies of Islamic law, that Mehanna once told him that he visited a school in Yemen, and that he often considered Abousamra’s opinions on certain issues to be extreme.
“For Tarek, it was always about what Islam required or Islam permitted or Islam forbids, right?– attorney J.W. Carney Jr. asked. Masood responded yes….
Prosecutors say that Mehanna and Abousamra ultimately failed to find a terrorist camp in Yemen, but that Mehanna returned home with a newfound dedication to distribute materials and videos promoting violent jihad on the Internet, to help promote Al Qaeda’s ideology.
Mehanna’s defense lawyers agree that he translated materials and distributed them on the Internet, but say he was simply expressing his beliefs, a right protected by the First Amendment, no matter how controversial the matter.
At no point did he work in cooperation with or at the direction of any terrorist organization, they said, and they argue that Mehanna went to Yemen looking for places to study, to further educate himself on Islamic law and on the Arabic language.
Masood agreed with defense lawyers that Mehanna often cited the Koran and that his views on Islam were conservative and far less extreme than his associate Abousamra….
Masood acknowledged under Carney”s questioning that while Abousamra had extreme views, Mehanna often had scholarly texts with him, and that he cited Islamic law in their discussions.
Mehanna, for instance, opposed suicide bombings and called them a last resort, because of the potential to hurt innocent civilians. But he supported attacking military targets to defend Muslims, including US military targets on foreign soil, Masood said.
Masood said, “I kind of assumed that because they used to hang out with Ahmad that their beliefs were similar.”