Tarek Mehanna was convicted in December on charges related to terrorism and lying to federal authorities. Mehanna and two coconspirators traveled to Pakistan in 2002 and Yemen in 2004 to receive military-style training in terrorist camps to prepare them for armed jihad against U.S. troops in Iraq. The men returned to the United States after failing to find a suitable training camp overseas.
Upon his return, Mehanna worked with others in England, Canada and the United States to seek potential recruits for al-Qaida using the Internet. He launched his own al-Qaida "media wing" espousing violent jihad. The al-Qaida materials translated and published by Mehanna included 39 Ways to Serve and Participate in Jihad and the Expedition of Umar Hadid.
His publications were "less spectacular than an explosion or hijacking but no less dangerous, and perhaps more influential," prosecutors wrote. In the age of the Internet revolution, al-Qaida and related groups devote more resources to recruit and radicalize potential terrorists in the United States to carry out jihadi attacks on their own.
"Anwar al Awlaki, Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, Ali Al-Timmimi are all examples of Mehanna's icons who have been pursued, imprisoned and/or killed for encouraging and inciting terrorist activities," prosecutors wrote.
A lengthy sentence for Mehanna would deter others from replicating Mehanna's actions, including traveling overseas to obtain terrorist training as well as using the Internet to disseminate jihadi materials and connect with other terrorists.
Mehanna is unrepentant and "continues to have no respect for American law and would reoffend if given a chance," prosecutors said, adding "a lengthy prison sentence and period of supervised release is needed to ensure that he does not get that opportunity."
Defense lawyers argued for a "sufficient but not greater than necessary" sentence for Mehanna. They characterized Mehanna as a victim of government excess; arguing his short visit to Yemen at the age of 21 was "entirely unsophisticated" and did not involve training in terrorist camps.
"There was no evidence that Mehanna's actions actually threatened United States security interests. There was no evidence that Mehanna provided any tangible material support such as funds or weapons to terrorist activity or to Al Qaeda," defense lawyers stated in their sentencing memorandum.