As American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts executive director Carol Rose writes, “no evidence was presented in court directly linking [Tarek Mehanna] to a terrorist group. He never hatched a plot—indeed, he objected when a friend (who went on to become a government informer and has never been charged with anything) proposed plans to stage violent attacks within the United States.”
By Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal
On April 12, 2012 Tarek Mehanna, a US-citizen and graduate from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, became the most recent victim of state terrorism in the United States of America. Mehanna is 29; he was sentence for 17 and a half years in prison, followed by seven years of supervised release, on federal criminal charges of “conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and providing or attempting to provide material support to terrorists.” That means spending twenty-four and a half years among criminals of worst kind. By the time he is completely free, he will be a 54-year-old man, and would be unable to resume any kind of normal life. In other words, his who life has been snatched away from him on flimsy charges.
His “crime”, according to details of this case, amounts to watching videos about jihad, discussing his views about suicide bombings online, translating texts readily available on the Internet, and looking for information about the 9/11 attackers. As American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts executive director Carol Rose writes, “no evidence was presented in court directly linking [Tarek Mehanna] to a terrorist group. He never hatched a plot—indeed, he objected when a friend (who went on to become a government informer and has never been charged with anything) proposed plans to stage violent attacks within the United States.”
Mehanna spoke to his persecutors, knowing fully well that each word he spoke, will increase time of his sentence. “In your eyes, I’m a terrorist, I’m the only one standing here in an orange jumpsuit and it’s perfectly reasonable that I be standing here in an orange jumpsuit. But one day, America will change and people will recognize this day for what it is. They will look at how hundreds of thousands of Muslims were killed and maimed by the US military in foreign countries, yet somehow I’m the one going to prison for ‘conspiring to kill and maim’ in those countries—because I support the Mujahidin defending those people. They will look back on how the government spent millions of dollars to imprison me as a ‘terrorist,’ yet if we were to somehow bring Abeer al-Janabi back to life in the moment she was being gang-raped by your soldiers, to put her on that witness stand and ask her who the ‘terrorists’ are, she sure wouldn’t be pointing at me. The government says that I was obsessed with violence, obsessed with ‘killing Americans.’ But, as a Muslim living in these times, I can think of a lie no more ironic.
Four days after Tarek Mehanna was sentenced, Ross Caputi, a former US marine (who served from 2003 to 2006), took part in the second battle of Fallujah in November 2004, became openly critical of the military and was discharged from the army in 2006, currently a student at Boston University and the founding director of the Justice for Fallujah Project, wrote in the Guardian: “If Tarek Mehanna is guilty, so am I. I, too, support the right of Muslims to defend themselves against US troops, even if that means they have to kill them, and I try to give the Iraqi resistance a voice through my website. I have done everything that Tarek Mehanna has done, and there are only two possibilities as to why I am not sitting in a cell with him: first, the FBI is incompetent and hasn’t been able to smoke me out; second, the US judicial system would never dream of violating my freedom of speech because I am white and I am a veteran of the occupation of Iraq. I agree with Tarek Mehanna that when Muslims attack US troops that have invaded and occupied their country, it is not an act of terrorism. It is simply warfare. Just as when George Washington’s army attacked British troops in 1776, it was not terrorism, but warfare. However, such a comparison assumes that there is an objective definition of “terrorism” that is used consistently by Americans. But as Tarek Mehanna pointed out in his sentencing statement, the term "terrorism" is subjective in American discourse, because the term is only acceptable when it is used to refer to what the official enemy does to us….I’m not afraid to profess my support for Tarek Mehanna, or to advocate for his ideas, because I know the law does not apply equally to all in America. My whiteness and my status as a veteran will protect me. But Tarek was brown and he never made the mistake of enlisting in the Marine Corps, as I did. So he will spend the next 17 years in a prison cell.”
Caputi went on to say: “I found Tarek Mehanna’s sentencing statement eloquent and truthful. I agree with him that much of what the US military has done in Iraq and Afghanistan can be characterized as terrorism, and I support Afghans and Iraqis who fight back against us. What I helped do to the city of Fallujah was terrorism, and I lost two dear friends in that operation, but I cannot hate or begrudge the resistance in Fallujah for killing them. They were only doing what I would have done had a foreign army been laying siege to my hometown. We were the aggressors and the terrorists, and I can see that now, eight years too late.”
Tarek Mehanna is only out of hundreds of other Muslims who have been subjected to ad hoc trails; others have faced numerous kinds of state terrorism and still others have been denied their basic rights. Only the most popular cases surface in media; others remain unreported: Canadian Maher Arar is waiting to have his case heard in the United States; Professor Sami Al-Arian, a Palestinian who was indicted in 2003 while he was working as an engineering professor at the University of South Florida, is still fighting for his release. The indictment was all based on his alleged support for Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian group that has nothing to do with the U.S. or Americans, but is instead focused exclusively on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. While awaiting his trial, he was held for almost three years in extreme solitary confinement. And there are numerous other famous cases. In fact, it would not be wrong to say that justice was murdered in the United States of America on September 11, 2001.