Boston-Area Pharmacy Grad Convicted of Supporting Al-Qaeda

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By Janelle Lawrence and Don Jeffrey –

Tarek Mehanna, a pharmacy-school graduate, was convicted by a federal jury in Boston of aiding al-Qaeda and of lying to U.S. authorities about his involvement with the group.

Mehanna, 29, who earned a doctorate from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy & Health Science, was found guilty on all counts against him, including making false statements, conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist organization and conspiracy to kill in a foreign country.

Mehanna became an operative for al-Qaeda after traveling to Yemen in 2004 for terrorist training, prosecutors told the jury at the beginning of the trial before U.S. District Judge George O’Toole in October.

The defendant translated materials for terrorists from Arabic to English, including an Al-Qaeda manual called “39 Ways to Serve and Participate in Jihad,” or holy war, according to prosecutors. They also said he lied to government agents about his reasons for going to Yemen. He wasn’t charged with planning or trying to carry out any terrorist attacks.

Defense lawyers told the jury that the prosecution by U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz violated their client’s right to free speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Mehanna was arrested at his home in Sudbury, Massachusetts, in October 2009 and pleaded not guilty in November 2009.

Mall Plot Abandoned

The Federal Bureau of Investigation said Mehanna and a friend, Ahmed Abousamra, who met at a local mosque when they were boys, discussed a plot to shoot shoppers at a mall, abandoning the plan when they couldn’t get weapons. Mehanna isn’t charged in connection with that alleged plot. Abousamra is a fugitive.

Mehanna’s father, Ahmed, emigrated from Egypt in the 1970s and is a professor at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy.

The case is U.S. v. Mehanna, 09-10017, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).

To contact the reporter on this story: Janelle Lawrence in Boston at jlawrence@me.com; Don Jeffrey in New York at djeffrey1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.

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