Editor's Note: For an intriguing background on this important case of the US government's illegal attack on a US citizen who happens to be a leader in the Muslim community, see:
- Les Blough, Editor
Dr. Tarek Mehanna
In a series of pre-trial motions filed on October 3, 2011, government prosecutors are seeking to restrict any evidence, commentary or testimony that would expose the political nature and retaliatory motives of their case against Tarek Mehanna. The motions themselves lay bare the real issues at stake in the case: all the things that the government wants to prevent the defense from talking about.
Here are some excerpts from a motion entitled:
"GOVERNMENT’S MOTION IN LIMINE TO LIMIT DEFENSE COMMENT AND INQUIRY REGARDING INADMISSIBLE SUBJECT MATTER":
- "Government Charging Decisions. Arguments and comments on the charging decisions of the government are irrelevant to whether the evidence is sufficient to convict the defendant and could inappropriately distract the jury from the factual issues that they must decide. ... The decision to prosecute the defendant, including implications about the sequence of timing of those decisions, as well as the government’s prosecutorial decisions with regard to the co-defendant or to other individuals, are not appropriate for the defense to comment upon in opening."
- "Another attempt to impugn the propriety of the government’s investigation is likely to be through a defense attempt to suggest that the government made immunity deals with more culpable individuals than the defendant."
Translation: In 2010, the government allowed a cooperating witness in the case, Bilaal McCloud, to go free on a charge of being a felony in possession of firearms. They apparently had material evidence against McCloud. They nevertheless chose instead to prosecute Tarek--against whom they have no such evidence--and to allow McCloud to walk free.
They did this in return for his testimony incriminating Tarek. The government seems to be aware that potential jurists might find this strange--even outrageous. So prosecutors want to be sure that the jury won't learn about it.
It's also clear that the decision to prosecute Tarek for "terrorism" related charges occured after a long period of coercive pressure aimed at getting him to work as an informant for the FBI. He was initially arrested in 2008 on a lesser charge of "lying to federal agents." Terrorism charges followed in 2009 based on "evidence" the government claims to have possessed since 2006 and only after Tarek refused to work for the FBI as an informant against other Muslims. The "sequence and timing" of the government's "charging decisions" would raise legitimate suspicions in the mind of any rational person, so the government doesn't want a jury to learn about it.
- "The Government’s Motivation for Investigating or Prosecuting the Case. Evidence bearing on the government’s decision to prosecute is “extraneous and collateral” and thus excluded from trial."
Translation: The FBI repeatedly approached Tarek to try to recruit him as an informant. He refused. They threatened to prosecute him on "terrorism " charges and to make his life a "living hell." He still refused. They proceeded to arrest him on "terrorism" charges. Most people hearing this would see the possibility that the government's actions were retaliatory and politically motivated. The government want to be sure that these motives can't be talked about.
From another government motion,
"TO PRECLUDE ARGUMENT AND EVIDENCE RELATED TO THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT’S POLITICAL POLICIES AND ACTIVITIES ABROAD AND IN DOMESTIC (CRIMINAL) TERRORISM INVESTIGATIONS AND RELATED MATTERS":
"The United States of America ... moves in limine to preclude the defendant from arguing, eliciting testimony (including expert testimony) or presenting evidence regarding the merits of United States government’s political policies abroad, and references to the righteousness of its defense and intelligence activities, and domestic criminal investigations and prosecutions, and alleged political motivation for defendant’s actions. Based upon the defendant’s arguments in this case, and disclosures made by the defense, the government anticipates attempted references in opening statement and closing argument,and during cross and direct examination, that question or criticize the righteousness of U.S. governmental policies and actions, such as the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the defendant’s First Amendment right to protest same, the solicitation of assistance in terrorism investigations, the relationship with the American Muslim community, the prioritization of law enforcement objectives, the decision to designate al Qa’ida as a terrorist organization, and several other political and irrelevant issues which will prevent a jury from remaining focused on the facts that they will be sworn to decide."
And later: "...the government respectfully requests this Court to preclude the defendant from eliciting testimony, presenting evidence of or arguing in the opening or closing statement related to the propriety of the U.S. Government’s policy positions with regard to the Executive’s actions, the suggestion the prosecution seeks to punish the defendant for opposing what he might view as improper foreign policy actions of the United States, and his alleged first amendment right to do so."
Translation: Tarek has been public and outspoken in his opposition to US wars of aggression against Afghanistan and Iraq, the detention of Muslims, and other US policies. The vast majority of "evidence" the government has submitted against Tarek consists of political speech. Most juries would be appalled to learn that "terrorism" charges were being used to silence political speech. The government is thus trying to preclude any presentation of this argument to a jury.
From a further motion,
"TO PRECLUDE QUESTIONING WHICH ELICITS CLASSIFIED INFORMATION AND RESTRICTS COUNSEL FROM MAKING COMMENTS BEFORE THE JURY SUGGESTING CLASSIFIED INFORMATION IS BEING USED TO PROSECUTE THE DEFENDANT":
"The United States of America ... hereby moves in limine to preclude the defendant from eliciting testimony from any witness that would reveal classified information or force a witness to indicate that a response would require them to disclose classified information. Likewise, the government requests the Court to order the defense to refrain from making inappropriate comments to the jury suggesting that classified information (or “secret evidence” or some other analog) is being used to prosecute the defendant."
Translation: The government has refused to turn over evidence used in obtaining electronic surveillance warrants against Tarek. Such evidence might demonstrate that the government engaged in illegitimate spying on political dissidents, or show how the government manipulated informants, or reveal other information that might severely discredit its case. The use of "secret evidence" stinks of totalitarianism. So the government wants to make sure that its use of "secret evidence" also remains a secret. The right of the defendant to see the evidence is, after all, one of the most elementary rights to due process. A jury might have doubts about a case in which the defendant has been deprived of those rights.
And here's our personal favorite, quoting again from the first motion discussed above:
- "the government respectfully requests that the Court preclude any allegations of outrageous government conduct as a trial defense."
Virtually everything about this case--including all the motions listed above-- falls under the category of "outrageous government conduct."
What would happen if the jury heard that?