For Immediate Release
Statement of Tamer Mehanna on Behalf of the Family of Tarek Mehanna
BOSTON - Today, my older brother Tarek will go on trial and face life in prison because of his religious and political beliefs. Let me say this at the outset: we believe Tarek was targeted for such treatment because he refused to become an informant against the American-Muslim community that he grew up in, worshipped in and with whom he shares strong bonds. But first I want to tell you a little bit about my brother.
Like me, he was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. When he was seven years old our family moved to Sudbury, Massachusetts. He graduated from Lincoln-Sudbury high School, where he took classes like anthropology and auto shop. He was a huge fan of the rock band Nirvana and he liked to play the guitar and drums. Later he would attend and graduate from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, where my father is a well-loved professor and from where I graduated as well.
Like many American families my brother and I followed in the footsteps of a parent.
And like many Americans there came a time when Tarek began to take a greater interest in his faith and history and seriously dedicated himself to study of religious and historical texts. In Tarek’s case this was in the winter of 2001. As we all know, shortly thereafter, the United States invaded the Muslim countries of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Like millions of Americans, Tarek was especially appalled by the war on and subsequent occupation of Iraq. And make no mistake, he, like many Americans—both Muslim and otherwise—was angry.
And he was not shy about expressing his opinions. Because, being an American, he of course knew that this was his right; he knew that in America we honor freedom of speech.
In fact, as you will hear in this trial, my brother, who was fully aware that the federal government was monitoring his conversations and his correspondence, felt free to express his opinions.
My brother’s goal in life was to combine his two passions: as a devout Muslim he wanted to spend at least part of his life working in a Muslim country. As a trained pharmacist he wanted to help patients live happier, healthier lives. And in fact, prior to his unjust detention he was able to fulfill part of his dream by joining the pharmacy team at the Children’s Hospital in Boston in 2005, where he helped treat patients for several years. In addition, Tarek became a respected member of our local American-Muslim community. Today he is still well respected and well liked.
But today he goes on trial for allegedly providing “material support” to a terrorist organization. Whatever the government says this means, the question is: What did Tarek actually do?
Let’s be clear, Tarek is not charged with violence. No one is saying Tarek is part of a terrorist organization. This case is about one thing: What Tarek has said or written and what his political views are.
And, as alluded to above, this trial must be looked at in context: Tarek refused to become a confidential informant for the FBI against his own community during a time when the American Muslim community was the subject of bias and prejudice. The demonization of American Muslims has been well documented. This is the context in which his trial must be viewed.
I do not share all of Tarek’s political or religious views. But I know this: he has a right to them. And the test for the jury will be whether in America, a person can still hold strong views and not be punished for them.
My family stands by my brother. We stand by our community, American and Muslim, and we stand by our Constitution, which we believe requires that Tarek be acquitted of all of the charges against him.