BOSTON — A Massachusetts man was convicted Tuesday of conspiring to help al-Qaida and plotting to kill U.S. soldiers in Iraq.
Tarek Mehanna, 29, of Sudbury, faced four terror-related charges and three charges of lying to authorities. A federal jury in Boston convicted him of all counts.
U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz praised the jury.
“Verdicts like this are not easy,” Ortiz said. “But it is clear that Mr. Mehanna had plans and his intent was to cause harm and the jury saw fit to find him guilty.”
“The more that we looked at the evidence, the more that we got to know our client, Tarek, the more we believed in his innocence,” said defense lawyer J.W. Carney Jr. “We did everything we could to try to show that to the jury.”
Prosecutors say Mehanna and two friends conspired to go to Yemen so they could receive training at a terrorist camp with the intention of going on to Iraq to fight against U.S. soldiers there. Prosecutors say when they couldn’t find a camp, Mehanna returned home and began translating and distributing publications to promote violent jihad.
Mehanna’s lawyers say he went to Yemen to look for religious schools and that his online activities were protected by the First Amendment.
“It’s an incredibly sad day for us,” said fellow defense attorney Janice Bassil. “It should be a sad day for all of you. It is a sad day for civil rights. It’s a sad day for the First Amendment.”
Ortiz says the government did not prosecute Mehanna for exercising his First Amendment rights.
“We prosecute people for conduct and the intent that they have when they engage in certain conduct,” she said.
Carney and Bassil say they’ll appeal the ruling.
Following the verdict, Mehanna’s father, Ahmed, immediately decried the decision, saying “there’s no evidence whatsoever in any of those charges.” Mehanna’s mother was visibly shaken.
Jurors spent more than 10 hours deliberating the verdict.
Mehanna will be sentenced April 12. He faces possible life in prison.
With reporting by The Associated Press and the WBUR Newsrooom