Tarek Mehanna was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1982 and was raised in Sudbury, Massachusetts. By the time he reached his 20s, Tarek Mehanna had become a young Muslim leader well-loved in his community and also an outspoken critic of US foreign policy. Noting his prestige in Boston Muslim circles, the FBI first courted him in 2006 to become a government informant. However, after refusing these requests, Mehanna, who had gone on to get his Ph.D from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy, was arrested by FBI agents in the autumn of 2008 as he boarded a plane with his parents to travel to Saudi Arabia to take up a prestigious appointment in the Diabetes Department at the King Fahad Medical City.
Mehanna was arrested under the federal False Statements Act for false statements he had allegedly made to a federal officer two years earlier. He was released on a bail of $1 million dollars plus the Mehanna’s family home. A year later, he was arrested at his family home in Sudbury, Massachusetts on material support for terrorism charges including charges that he had translated a publication, “39 Ways to Serve and Participate in Jihad,” from Arabic to English and that he had watched “jihadi videos” with friends and lent compact discs to people in the Boston area to create “like-minded youth.” This time the court denied him bail and for two tears he was held in pre-trial 23-hour-a-day solitary confinement.
In late 2011, after a 35-day trial, Tarek Mehanna was convicted of material support for terrorism, conspiring to provide material support to terrorists, and conspiring to kill in a foreign country. On April 12, 2012, he was sentenced to seventeen-and-half years in prison. Writing in the New York Times in April 2012 about the case, Yale Professor Andrew March wrote “ Mr. Mehnanna’s crimes were speech crimes, even thought crimes…Much of Mr. Mehanna’s speech on Web sites and in IM chats was brutal, disgusting and unambiguously supportive of Islamic insurgencies in Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia… But is the government right that such speech, however repulsive, can be criminalized as material support for terrorism?….. The Mehanna prosecution is a frightening and unnecessary attempt to expand the kinds of religious and political speech that the government can criminalize.”
Tarek Mehanna is currently is held in the Communication Management Unit at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. He appealed but the First Circuit for the US Court of Appeals affirmed the verdict in November 2013.