No Justice for Muslim Political Prisoners.
Supreme Court Rejects Tarek Mehanna’s appeal;
Ziyad Yaghi, Abdul Razak Ali also denied appeal
by Sis. Karin Friedemann [Boston]
On Monday, October 6, 2014 the US Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from Tarek Mehanna, a Massachusetts resident who is serving a 17 1/2 year sentence for translating ancient Arabic texts on jihad for the Islamic website At Tibyan.
Mehanna claims he was threatened with prosecution after refusing to act as an informant for the FBI. He is accused of support for terrorism, though his support never included picking up a gun. The government alleges that Mehanna “intended” to go to Iraq to take up arms against the US, although there is no evidence. Mehanna is guilty of nothing more than saying in passing that Iraqis have a right to defend themselves.
“I’m disappointed to see even the highest court still submissive to the executive branch’s fabrication of charges,” Mehanna’s father, Ahmed Mehanna, 64, said. “It’s clearly the First Amendment [at issue], and they refused to even look at it.”
Mehanna’s prosecutor, US Attorney Carmen Ortiz, is the same one who is pursuing the prosecutions of youths accused in relation to the Boston Marathon bombings. She claims Mehanna was “using the Internet to encourage others to support terrorism.”
Boston FBI Agent Vincent Lisi in charge of framing the case against Mehanna stated, “From his travel to Yemen to receive training to kill American soldiers to his material support for terrorism at home, it was clear Mr. Mehanna trained to be a terrorist.”
Prosecutors say Mehanna traveled with Ahmad Abousamra to Yemen in 2004 to join a terrorist training camp, while Mehanna insists he traveled there to learn Arabic. He had expressed some light-hearted interest to a friend in checking out the famous al Qaeda training camps, but they don’t really exist as tourism adventure spots anymore in this decade now that Reagan is no longer president. Mehanna never did go to any camp to participate in any weapons training, and even if he had, that is not the same thing as signing up for a war against the US. Mehanna’s lawyers said he didn’t give any tangible support to al-Qaida, and his online activities were protected free speech.
“We are disappointed that the Supreme Court declined to hear the case,” a lawyer for Mehanna, P. Sabin Willett told ABC News.
Mehanna’s father said his family had not even had “one iota of hope” that his son would get a hearing before the high court, in light of the news reports on ISIS.
“Unfortunately, the Supreme Court is affected by such a saga and such media frenzy,” Ahmed Mehanna said. “It is a very, very sad day.”
“Everybody agrees that Mehanna supported al-Qaida’s cause; At Tibyan is a fairly popular terrorist forum, and Mehanna translated its content with the clear intention of swaying opinion toward the jihadist cause. But translating, publishing, and praising ideological texts, no matter how morally vile, is generally considered to be a basic free speech activity. Everyone knows that the First Amendment protects translations of Mein Kampf. Why did Mehanna’s translation of jihadist hosannas land him behind bars?” writes Mark Joseph Stern in Slate.
“Where, exactly, does free speech end and unlawful terrorist coordination begin?”
Mehanna had no idea his actions were criminal. He possessed the self-confidence and outspoken attitude of a relatively affluent, American born male.
“A major issue that seems to remain open as a result of the Court’s decision is the extent to which a defendant must “coordinate” his or her activities with the FTO [Foreign Terrorist Organization] in question in order to be convicted under § 2339. The Court had previously held in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, 130 S. Ct. 2705 (2010), that § 2339 “reaches only material support coordinated with or under the direction of a designated foreign terrorist organization” (emphasis added),” writes Alex Ely in lawfareblog.com.
Andy Wang of lawfareblog explains, “The 1996 “material support” provision, 18 U.S.C. § 2339, criminalizes the providing of “material support or resources” to a foreign terrorist organization (FTO). Providing “material support or resources” can mean the providing of “any property... or service” to the FTO... The government succeeded in convicting him under the material support provision, and the First Circuit affirmed the conviction.”
“Mehanna’s petition opens with a statutory argument—that his actions were not criminal under any reasonable definition of the word “coordination.” Noting that he only translated the texts—at his own discretion—and that the translations were not committed, directed, paid for by, performed in concert with, or presented to any FTO, Mehanna argues that he could not possibly have “coordinate[d]” with any FTOs... he merely translated the texts at his own discretion and disseminated them to other users on the internet.”
Mehanna concludes, “If the government’s low bar for what actions and speech constitute “coordination” is allowed to stand, it would impose unconstitutional sanctions for merely talking or associating with people on the internet.”
However, Mehanna’s vacation to Yemen, the government argued, was enough to let the conviction stand, brushing aside the issue of whether translations alone can constitute sufficient coordination and material support.
This week the Supreme Court also denied appeal to Ziyad Yaghi, another American-born Muslim found guilty of suspicious vacationing after he went to Egypt in search of a bride and tried to make a stop in Jerusalem; and Guantanamo inmate Abdul Razak Ali.