Terror suspect appears defiant in Mass. court

Showing no respect to the judge, a pharmacy college graduate heard the terror charges against him in federal court.

Topics: Terrorism,

A pharmacy college graduate made a defiant appearance in federal court Wednesday, hours after being charged with conspiring with two other men in a terror plot to kill two prominent U.S. politicians and carry out a holy war by attacking shoppers in U.S. malls and American troops in Iraq.

Authorities say the men’s plans — in which they used code words like “peanut butter and jelly” for fighting in Somalia and “culinary school” for terrorist camps — were thwarted in part when they could not find training and were unable to buy automatic weapons, authorities said.

Tarek Mehanna, 27, was arrested Wednesday morning at his parents’ home in Sudbury, an upscale suburb 20 miles west of Boston, and appeared for a brief hearing later in the day. When ordered by the judge to stand to hear the charge against him, he refused. He finally did stand — tossing his chair loudly to the floor — only after his father urged him to do so.

“This really, really is a show,” his father, Ahmed Mehanna, said afterward. When asked if he believed the charges against his son, he said, “No, definitely not.”

Prosecutors say Tarek Mehanna worked with two men from 2001 to May 2008 on the conspiracy to “kill, kidnap, maim or injure” soldiers and two politicians who were members of the executive branch but are no longer in office. Authorities refused to identify the politicians.

Mehanna — a graduate of the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy in Boston, where his father is a professor — conspired with Ahmad Abousamra, who authorities say is now in Syria, and an unnamed man, who is cooperating in the investigation, according to authorities.

The three men often discussed their desire to participate in “violent jihad against American interests” and talked about “their desire to die on the battlefield,” prosecutors said. But when they were unable to join terror groups in Iraq, Yemen and Pakistan, they found inspiration in the Washington-area sniper shootings and turned their interests to domestic terror pursuits while they plotted the attack on shopping malls, authorities said.

Mehanna had “multiple conversations about obtaining automatic weapons and randomly shooting people in shopping malls,” Acting U.S. Attorney Michael Loucks said. Prosecutors would not say which malls had been targeted.

Loucks said the men justified attacks because U.S. civilians pay taxes to support the U.S. government and because they are “nonbelievers.”

The mall plan was abandoned after the men failed to track down automatic weapons, Loucks said.

Mehanna’s attorney, J.W. Carney Jr., would not comment on the allegations. Mehanna is being held until his next court appearance on Oct. 30.

Court documents filed by the government say that in 2002 or 2003, Abousamra became frustrated after repeatedly being rejected to join terror groups in Pakistan — first Lashkar e Tayyiba, then the Taliban.

“Because Abousamra was an Arab (not Pakistani) the LeT camp would not accept him, and because of Abousamra’s lack of experience, the Taliban camp would not accept him,” Williams wrote in the affidavit.

You Might Also Like

Mehanna and Abousamra traveled to Yemen in 2004 in an attempt to join a terrorist training camp.

Mehanna allegedly told a friend, the third conspirator who is now cooperating with authorities, that their trip was a failure because they were unable to reach people affiliated with the camps. The men, who had allegedly received tips on whom to meet from a person identified in court documents as “Individual A,” said half the people they wanted to see were on “hajj,” referring to the pilgrimage to Mecca in Islam, and half were in jail.

“They traveled all over the country looking for the people Individual A told them to meet,” authorities allege in the criminal complaint.

Abousamra was rejected by a terror group when he sought training in Iraq because he was American, authorities said.

The men later decided they were not going to be able to get terror training in Pakistan and “began exploring other options, including terrorist acts in the United States,” the affidavit said.

Mehanna, a U.S. citizen, was arrested in November and charged with lying to the FBI in December 2006 when asked the whereabouts of Daniel Maldonado, who is now serving a 10-year prison sentence for training with al-Qaida to overthrow the Somali government.

Mehanna told the FBI that Maldonado was living in Egypt and working for a Web site. But authorities said Maldonado had called Mehanna from Somalia urging him to join him in “training for jihad.”

Authorities said Wednesday that Mehanna and his conspirators had contacted Maldonado about getting automatic weapons for their planned mall attacks.

Carney, who represented Mehanna in the previous case, said at the time: “If this is the FBI’s idea of a terrorist, they are using a net that is designed to catch minnows instead of sharks.”

After his arrest, Mehanna developed a cult following among Muslim civil rights groups and Web sites that believed Mehanna was wrongly arrested. Web sites like the London-based cageprisoners.com, a human rights group that advocates for prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and other detainees as part of the U.S. war on terror, asked supporters to write Mehanna in prison to keep up his spirits.

The site MuslimMatters.org asked supporters to pray for his release and published a letter they said Mehanna wrote from prison.

In the letter, Mehanna thanked supporters and said he was being treated well.

“I can only think of the countless imprisoned Muslims in the jails of tyrants around the globe and hope that if it is not Allah’s Decree to free them in the near future, that they taste the sweetness that Allah has placed them in prison to taste,” Mehanna wrote.

He signed the letter, “Your brother in the green jumpsuit.”

——

Associated Press writers Jay Lindsay, Bob Salsberg and Russell Contreras in Boston and Devlin Barrett in Washington contributed to this report from Boston.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    DAYA  
    Young Daya has yet to become entirely jaded, but she has the character's trademark skeptical pout down pat. And with a piece-of-work mother like Aleida -- who oscillates between jealousy and scorn for her creatively gifted daughter, chucking out the artwork she brings home from summer camp -- who can blame her?

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    MORELLO   
    With her marriage to prison penpal Vince Muccio, Lorna finally got to wear the white veil she has fantasized about since childhood (even if it was made of toilet paper).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CINDY   
    Cindy's embrace of Judaism makes sense when we see her childhood, lived under the fist of a terrifying father who preached a fire-and-brimstone version of Christianity. As she put it: "I was raised in a church where I was told to believe and pray. And if I was bad, I’d go to hell."

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CAPUTO   
    Joey Caputo has always tried to be a good guy, whether it's offering to fight a disabled wrestler at a high school wrestling event or giving up his musical ambitions to raise another man's child. But trying to be a nice guy never exactly worked out for him -- which might explain why he decides to take the selfish route in the Season 3 finale.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    BOO   
    In one of the season's more moving flashbacks, we see a young Boo -- who rejected the traditional trappings of femininity from a young age -- clashing with her mother over what to wear. Later, she makes the decision not to visit her mother on her deathbed if it means pretending to be something she's not. As she puts it, "I refuse to be invisible, Daddy. Not for you, not for Mom, not for anybody.”

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    SOSO
    We still don't know what landed Brooke Soso in the slammer, but a late-season flashback suggests that some seriously overbearing parenting may have been the impetus for her downward spiral.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    POUSSEY
    We already know a little about Poussey's relationship with her military father, but this season we saw a softer side of the spunky fan-favorite, who still pines for the loving mom that she lost too young.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    PENNSATUCKY
    Pennsatucky had something of a redemption arc this season, and glimpses of her childhood only serve to increase viewer sympathy for the character, whose mother forced her to chug Mountain Dew outside the Social Security Administration office and stripped her of her sexual agency before she was even old enough to comprehend it.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CHANG
    This season, we got an intense look at the teenage life of one of Litchfield's most isolated and underexplored inmates. Rebuffed and scorned by her suitor at an arranged marriage, the young Chinese immigrant stored up a grudge, and ultimately exacted a merciless revenge.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    HEALY
    It's difficult to sympathize with the racist, misogynist CO Sam Healy, but the snippets we get of his childhood -- raised by a mentally ill mother, vomited on by a homeless man he mistakes for Jesus when he runs to the church for help -- certainly help us understand him better.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NORMA
    This season, we learned a lot about one of Litchfield's biggest enigmas, as we saw the roots of Norma's silence (a childhood stutter) and the reason for her incarceration (killing the oppressive cult leader she followed for decades).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NICKI
    While Nicki's mother certainly isn't entirely to blame for her daughter's struggles with addiction, an early childhood flashback -- of an adorable young Nicki being rebuffed on Mother's Day -- certainly helps us understand the roots of Nicki's scarred psyche.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>