Following a two-hour hearing Thursday in U.S. District Court in Boston, Judge George A. O’Toole, Jr., sentenced Tarek Mehanna, 29, the Sudbury resident found guilty on terror charges in December, to 210 months, to be followed by seven years of supervised release. In December 2011, Mehanna was convicted by a jury, after 10 hours of deliberation, of four terrorism-related charges and three charges related to providing false information to the government.
The Boston Globe is reporting O’Toole was "frankly concerned by the defendant’s apparent absence of remorse, notwithstanding the jury’s verdict."
Mehanna had faced life in prison for conspiring to help al Qaeda and traveling to Yemen in search of terrorism training in 2004. But O'Toole said earlier Thursday a life term would not be issued.
“Today has been yet another travesty of justice, a continuation of this whole trial,” Rev. Jason Lydon said outside the courthouse, following the hearing, where friends, family, and supporters rallied in protest of the heavy sentence.
Mehanna's lawyers had argued for a 6 1/2-year sentence, while federal prosecutors asked for 25.
Mehanna family friend Sarah Moawad said: "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 1/2 years because of conversations he had and beliefs he held."
The Herald also reports a request by a juror and Mehanna's parents to speak to the court were rejected.
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, said. "Our attorneys will be filing an appeal immediately."
Mehanna graduated from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy in 2008.
During his arrest in 2009, he was free on bail from an earlier arrest in November 2008 at Logan International Airport. He was charged with lying to federal investigators in a 2006 interview. Prosecutors claim he attempted to obtain automatic weapons from Daniel Maldonado. Maldonado, who is a friend of Mehanna's, was at the time a terrorism suspect. Maldonado is serving a 10-year prison sentence for training with Al Qaeda in Somalia.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) members: Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs Border Protection, the Massachusetts State Police and the Lowell Police Department, in addition to other members of the FBI’s JTTF. The JTTF includes officers and agents from a number of other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys
Jeffrey Auerhahn and Aloke S. Chakravarty of Ortiz’s Anti-Terrorism and National Security Unit and Jeffrey Groharing, Trial Attorney with the Department’s National Security and Counter Terrorism Section.
With sentencing over, 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, said: "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."
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Information from press releases issued to Sudbury Patch were used in this report.)