Lawyers for Tarek Mehanna have asked the US Supreme Court to hear an appeal of the former Sudbury man’s conviction on charges of helping Al Qaeda, plotting to kill Americans, and lying to the FBI.
The request was filed Monday, according to court records. Federal prosecutors have until April 18 to respond, and the high court will then decide whether to take up the case.
A federal jury in Boston convicted Mehanna in December 2011 on charges of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists, conspiring to kill in a foreign country, and of lying to authorities in a terrorism investigation.
Prosecutors said Mehanna traveled with an associate to Yemen in 2004 to join a terrorist training camp and ultimately attack American soldiers in Iraq, but the plan failed.
When Mehanna returned home, officials said, he translated Arab-language materials into English and posted them online to promote Al Qaeda’s ideology and inspire others to violent jihad.
Mehanna’s lawyers argued that he traveled to Yemen to pursue religious studies.
But an appellate court in Boston found in November 2013 that coconspirator testimony indicated that the purpose of the trip was “to basically fight in a war” and that Mehanna felt Muslims had an obligation to battle US forces in Iraq.
Regarding his translations, Mehanna’s lawyers and free speech advocates argued that his actions were protected under the First Amendment.
Circuit Judge Bruce M. Selya, in the appellate ruling that upheld Mehanna’s conviction, wrote that even if prosecutors failed to prove the translations amounted to material support for Al Qaeda, the terrorism-related charges were “independently supported by the mass of evidence surrounding the Yemen trip.”
Mehanna, 31, is currently incarcerated at a medium security federal prison in Marion, Ill., and is scheduled to be released in December 2024, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website.