[lg policy] Boston Globe: Mehanna defense focuses on language in terror case

Jeff Gross jmgross1 at GMAIL.COM
Wed Dec 14 17:59:35 UTC 2011


By Milton J. Valencia    |    GLOBE STAFF    DECEMBER 14, 2011

Defense lawyers for accused terrorist supporter Tarek Mehanna sought to
establish yesterday that materials he allegedly distributed in support of
Al Qaeda had already been translated by someone else.

Thomas F. Connolly, a professor of English at Suffolk University who also
teaches at Tufts University, testified in US District Court in Boston that
subtitles for a propaganda video Mehanna allegedly distributed in support
of Al Qaeda appear to be translated by someone trained in British English,
not American.

The subtitles on the video used the English spellings for honor (honour)
and realize (realise), for instance.

“This was a person who was not educated in American English,’’ Connolly

The defense team sought to use Connolly’s testimony to establish that the
materials Mehanna translated were readily available elsewhere, diluting his
“material support’’ of Al Qaeda.
Mehanna, 29, an American citizen from Sudbury, faces life in prison if
convicted on charges of conspiring to support terrorists, conspiring to
kill in a foreign country, and of lying to investigators.

Prosecutors say Mehanna traveled to Yemen in 2004 in search of terrorism
training so he could carry out jihad, or holy war, in support of Al Qaeda
against US soldiers in Iraq. They say he returned to the United States when
he failed to find a camp.

Mehanna is also said to have supported Al Qaeda by translating the group’s
documents into English and distributing them on the Internet to promote its
Defense lawyers say Mehanna had the First Amendment right to distribute the
information, but say that he was expressing his own beliefs against US
foreign policy and in defense of Muslims and that he never worked in
partnership with any terrorist organization. The documents he distributed
were in some cases based on citations of the Koran, they said. They used
Connolly’s testimony to argue that the documents were translated elsewhere.

The defense lawyers also maintain that Mehanna traveled to Yemen in search
of schools to further his studies of Islamic jurisprudence and of the
Arabic language.
After roughly six weeks of prosecution testimony, defense lawyers for
Mehanna have been using the testimony of scholars in Arabic and Islamic law
to argue that Mehanna was not working to support any terrorist organization.

Defense lawyers indicated they may call their last witness today.
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