BOSTON (CBS) – Opening statements were presented Thursday in the federal trial of a Sudbury man charged with conspiring to support al-Qaeda.
Tarek Mehanna is accused of plotting with the terrorist organization to kill U.S. troops in Iraq and lying to the FBI.
A jury of seven men and nine women was seated late Thursday morning in U.S. District Court in South Boston.
WBZ-TV’s Karen Anderson reports
In his opening statement, federal prosecutor Aloke Chakravarty told the jury that Mehanna told a friend he thought of Osama bin Laden as a father and was personally asked to translate a message from the second-ranked member of al-Qaeda.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Lana Jones reports.
Chakravarty said investigators found a “treasure trove of information” on Mehanna’s computer about his intentions with hundreds of instant messages about jihad.
Chakravarty also claimed Mehanna was trying to fight jihad by translating material “all from the comfort of his cushy bedroom in Sudbury.”
Mehanna’s attorney J.W. Carney told the jury Mehanna believed there was no justification for the U.S. to be in Iraq and that “in the United States you can hold that view and not be punished.”
Carney noted that the crucial questions in this case are whether Mehanna’s advocacy for al-Qaeda was independent or was he working for al-Qaeda?
After the opening statements were finished, jurors were dismissed for the day. Witness testimony will begin Friday.
Outside court, Mehanna’s brother Tamer told reporters that Mehanna does not support terrorism and is being punished for his views.
“My brother’s been in isolated confinement for the entire two years (since his arrest). Those are two years of his life he’ll never get back and this is the first day that we’re going to start trying to help him get his life back.”
“One of the rights we have living in this country is that it’s o.k. for us to be able to criticize foreign policy without being labeled as terrorists.”
Several dozen of Mehanna’s supporters and some protestors from Occupy Boston also showed up at the courthouse.
Mehanna claims he went to Yemen to study religion and that his activity on the Internet is protected by the First Amendment.
Prosecutors plan to show jurors a video of bin Laden promoting violent jihad.
They say Mehanna added English subtitles to show his support for the terror group.
The trial is expected to last seven-to-eight weeks.