Terror suspect loses bid for bail
A former volunteer teacher at a Worcester Islamic school has been denied release from jail pending his federal trial on terrorism charges in October.
U.S. District Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. in Boston upheld the ruling of a magistrate judge that no combination of conditions could prevent Tarek Mehanna, 28, of Sudbury, from fleeing before his trial.
The U.S. attorney also argued that Mr. Mehanna needed to stay in jail because he poses a danger and would obstruct justice.
His codefendant, Ahmad Abousamra of Mansfield, is a fugitive believed to be living in Syria. They are charged with providing and attempting to provide material support to terrorists, conspiracy to do so, conspiracy to kill in a foreign country, and, between them, six counts of making false statements.
The Rev. Jason Lydon of Community Church of Boston found Judge O’Toole’s decision “deeply disappointing.” The minister, a spokesman for The Tarek Mehanna Defense Committee, said, “His family and his community had hoped he would return to his community in preparation for trial in October and I think that, as his lawyer made clear, the denial of bail will inhibit preparations for trial.”
He added, “His community will stand behind him, and we trust his lawyers will do everything that they can to secure his long term freedom.”
Mr. Mehanna was a volunteer teacher at Alhuda Academy on East Mountain Street, Worcester, after his release Dec. 19, 2008, on a single charge of lying to the FBI, until he was arrested Oct. 21, 2009, on the more serious charges and held.
A graduate of the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, he also worked as an intern for about three years at Walgreens pharmacy in Marlboro beginning in December 2006.
Judge O’Toole noted the argument of defense lawyer Janice Bassil of the difficulty of preparing a defense with her client in jail and so many documents and recorded conversations in Arabic and slang. He said special accommodations such as availability to Mr. Mehanna in jail of a computer have already been made.
He said, “It is possible that further accommodations at his place of confinement may be appropriate. The attorney general is hereby respectfully reminded of his obligation to assure that the defendant is provided with reasonable opportunity for private consultation with counsel.”
The Justice Department accuses Mr. Mehanna of translating jihadist materials and said that he wanted to shoot shoppers as well as first responders at an American mall, but was unable to secure automatic weapons. It said he traveled to Yemen for training at terrorist camps, while his lawyers said he went for religious studies.
Mr. Mehanna’s lawyers were not available for comment today.