Saturday, April 14, 2012

Tarek Mehanna Sentenced to 17.5 Years

Hundreds of Supporters Stand With Him, Vow to Continue the Fight

Dr. Tarek Mehanna was sentenced to 210 months today at the Moakley
Federal Courthouse, with more than 300 supporters packing the
courtroom and overflow rooms. In a landmark case that has mobilized
civil liberties and Muslim groups nationwide, Dr. Mehanna was
sentenced for providing 'material support' to a terrorist
organization, amidst hundreds of protesting supporters.

Mehanna addressed the court, stating: "Everything I learned [as a
young adult] confirmed what I was beginning to learn when I was six:
that throughout history there has been a constant struggle between
the oppressors and the oppressed. And with each struggle I learned
about, I found myself consistently siding with the oppressed and
consistantly siding with those that defend them."

Dr. Mehanna remained composed throughout the day's proceedings,
thanking supporters and exiting with a firm "assalaam alaikum." In a
moving expression of solidarity, Dr. Mehanna's supporters stood up
and applauded as he exited. While supporters were not allowed to wear
symbols of support, such as FREE TAREK shirts, into the main
courtroom, their presence was greatly felt.

"Today has been yet another travesty of justice, a continuation of
this whole trial," Rev. Jason Lydon declared outside the courthouse,
following the hearing, where friends, family, and supporters rallied
in protest of the heavy sentence. Family friend, Sarah Moawad,
stated, "Dr. Mehanna is an outspoken Muslim leader who was prosecuted
for his criticism of the government's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,
and his advocacy for the right of people to defend themselves. The
first amendment is dead. A member of our community is going to prison
for 17.5 years because of conversations he had and beliefs he held."

With sentencing over, Dr. Mehanna will be transferred to a federal
prison out of state in the coming weeks, but supporters don't seem to
be going anywhere. Laila Murad, of the Tarek Mehanna Support
Committee, vowed, "This is not over. We will continue to fight for
justice for Tarek and the countless others who have been imprisoned
for their political beliefs, and we will expose the outrageous,
vindictive practices of the FBI and the US Attorney's Office."

Despite the sentence, supporters stated that they had seen concrete
results. A coordinator for Dr. Mehanna's support campaign, Kate
Bonner-Jackson, attributed the prosecutors' recommendation of 25
years, rather than the possible sentence of life without parole, to
community support for Dr. Mehanna and public outcry, including almost
100 pages of support the court received prior to sentencing. She
stressed the need for continued solidarity.

Dr. Mehanna's parents thanked supporters and affirmed that they stand
behind their son. "We're proud of Tarek and the stances he took," his
brother, Tamer Mehanna stated. "Our attorneys will be filing an
appeal immediately."

As the large crowd dispersed, a long-time friend of Dr. Mehanna's,
Mohamed Bahi, commented, "Tarek has remained steadfast and so will
we. We won't rest till he's free."

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