USA v. Mehanna


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.

Legal Documents

Amicus Brief (submitted but not filed) (PDF)

ACLU amicus brief in support of appeal (PDF)

Media

12.26.12

Rhetorical support is not "material support"
Blog of Rights

4.12.12

It's official. There is a Muslim exemption to the First Amendment
On Liberty

4.10.12

US prosecution of fundamentalist Muslim seen as setback for free speech
The Guardian

12.20.11

Mehanna verdict compromises First Amendment, undermines national security
News release

Freedom of speech on trial
On Liberty

10.24.11

Jury Selection Begins For Sudbury Man Accused Of Plotting Terrorist Attacks
News story featuring attorney and former ACLU of Massachusetts board member Harvey Silverglate.

Jury selection underway in terrorism trial
News story featuring ACLU of Massachusetts education director Nancy Murray.