BOSTON – A Massachusetts man accused in a terror plot to kill Americans pleaded not guilty Tuesday to federal charges that he conspired to help al-Qaida.
Tarek Mehanna of Sudbury smiled and nodded to dozens of supporters in a federal courtroom in Boston before he was arraigned on a charge of conspiring to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization. The charge was added last month in a superseding indictment against Mehanna and Ahmad Abousamra, a former Mansfield man who U.S. authorities say is now in Syria.
The men already faced charges that they conspired to kill American troops in Iraq, assassinate two unnamed U.S. politicians and shoot shoppers in U.S. malls.
A trial date of Oct. 3, 2011, was set to give the defense time to examine thousands of pages of government evidence.
Mehanna's lawyer, J.W. Carney Jr., said he expects to file a motion to dismiss some or all of the charges against Mehanna in February. Carney has said prosecutors built their case based on anti-American statements Mehanna made from 2002 to 2006, when he was in college. Carney has said Mehanna's statements, though unpopular, are protected by the First Amendment.
Authorities have said Mehanna and two other men charged never came close to pulling off an attack but did seek training at terrorist camps in the Middle East. The men allegedly told friends they were rejected for terrorist training because of their nationality, ethnicity or inexperience, or that they were unable to make contact with people they hoped would get them into camps.
Prosecutors allege that the men dropped plans to attack shopping malls because their weapons contact said he could only find handguns, not automatic weapons.