BOSTON (Reuters) – A jury on Tuesday found a Massachusetts man guilty of supporting al Qaeda by translating Arabic messages and supporting militants through traveling to Yemen for terrorism training.
Tarek Mehanna, 29, was found guilty on all seven counts against him and faces the possibility of life in prison.
Mehanna was arrested in 2009 and charged with “providing and conspiring to provide material support to terrorists.” He was also charged with conspiracy to kill in a foreign country and lying to law enforcement officers.
Prosecutors said the defendant answered a call to action from Osama bin Laden to battle U.S. soldiers.
They said he traveled to Yemen in 2004 to seek terrorism training, but never received it, and had planned to travel to Iraq to fight U.S. troops.
They also said he translated videos and texts from Arabic to English and distributed them online to further al Qaeda’s cause.
Defense attorneys said Mehanna, a U.S. citizen, was merely trying to learn more about his Muslim heritage by studying Islamic law and translating classical texts. He traveled to Yemen to visit schools where he hoped to study, they said.
Mehanna openly opposed the U.S. military presence in Iraq and showed admiration for bin Laden’s efforts to expel foreign powers from Muslim countries, defense attorneys said. He never worked for al Qaeda or had direct contact with the group.
Among the trial witnesses was one of Mehanna’s friends, Daniel Maldonado, a New Hampshire man serving a 10-year sentence for obtaining al Qaeda military training.
The FBI released excerpts of blogs allegedly written by Mehanna about the appeal of martyrdom and transcripts of phone conversations between Mehanna and Maldonado.
Mehanna was born in Pennsylvania but grew up in Sudbury, a suburb west of Boston, and holds a doctorate degree from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.
(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst, Peter Bohan and Greg McCune)