Tarek Mehanna, a young Muslim pharmacist from Sudbury, Massachusetts, faced trial on October 24, 2011, on federal criminal charges of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and providing or attempting to provide material support to terrorists. The ACLU of Massachusetts has condemned the use of conspiracy and material support charges where the charges are based largely on First Amendment-protected expression.
In Mehanna’s case, the charges are based on allegations of such activity, such as his watching videos about “jihad”, discussing his views about suicide bombings, translating texts available on the Internet, and looking for information about the 9/11 attackers. Historically, government prosecutors have used conspiracy charges as a vehicle for the suppression of unpopular ideas, contrary to the dictates of the First Amendment and fundamental American values.
After the ACLU of Massachusetts submitted a memorandum of law in support of Mehanna’s motion to dismiss the parts of the indictment against him that were based on protected expression, U.S. District Court Judge George O’Toole denied permission for the memorandum to be filed with the court. A copy of the memorandum is available here.
On December 26, 2012, the ACLU and the ACLU of Massachusetts filed a friend-of-the-court brief in Mehanna's appeal arguing that his speech, though extreme, is protected by the Constitution.
Amicus Brief (submitted but not filed) (PDF)
ACLU amicus brief in support of appeal (PDF)
Rhetorical support is not "material support"
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