Yesterday Sacco and Vanzetti; now Tarek Mehanna
Speech by Laila Murad from the Tarek Mehanna Defense Committee at the Sacco Vanzetti Memorial 2010
Today many of us have been reminded of the case of Sacco and Vanzetti. Theirs is a case that has been referred to as "the case that never goes away" and it is indeed a case that we saw in the years before it even began and one that we have seen countless times in the 83 years since.
Over the decades we have seen the FBI's COINTELPRO attack on communities to crush movements of struggle and dissent such as the Black Panther Party, Black Liberation Army, Puertro Rican Independence Movement, American Indian Movement and Earth Liberation Movement.
Over the past 10 or so years, we have seen the War on Terror targeted primarily Muslims and people of Arab and South Asian decent, as well anarchists and radical environmentalists.
Since 9/11 the FBI has targeted and questioned members of almost every Muslim community across the country. 100's of thousands of Muslims have been questioned, arrested, disappeared, deported, framed, convicted and imprisoned in the US. In the past year alone, hundreds of Muslims have been swept up and are facing terror charges. I'm here today to speak on a case of one these Muslim brothers whose strong politics and commitment to justice got him framed and arrested.
Tarek Mehanna is an Arab, Muslim man who has been arrested by the FBI on false charges and is now being held in solitary confinement.
Tarek has been an active and respected member of the Muslim community here in the Greater Boston area, fulfilling the roles of scholar, friend, and teacher. As a strong, trusted leader in his community, Tarek was quickly targeted by the FBI. Several years ago they began approaching Tarek in hopes to recruit him as an informant. They wanted to secure him as someone who could help them spy on, testify against, lie about, and help frame or set up other Muslims in the community. Naturally, Tarek refused to participate in government spying that would betray and harm his sisters and brothers in the community.
The FBI was obviously displeased with his stand and began to threaten Tarek into working for them - telling him they would "make his life a living hell" if he refused to cooperate. Tarek, a man of uncompromising ethics, did not cave into their pressure and continued to refuse their demands to become an informant.
Tarek stayed true to his beliefs, and the FBI kept their word as well. They jumped on an opportunity to arrest Tarek in November of 2008 on a charge of issuing "false statements". After spending a couple months in prison, Tarek was able to get out on an inflated million dollar bail. He was highly restricted while out, under a court-ordered curfew and was monitored by the FBI. He spent his time out on bail continuing to give to his community, as a teacher and mentor to youth.
Though Tarek's life was under constant surveillance and restrictions, as time passed, it seemed that he would be able to return to a relatively normal life. This thought was shattered In the early hours of the morning on October 21st this past fall, when the FBI raided the Mehannas' house with an arrest warrant. Despite the lack of any new evidence against Tarek, they arrested him for the second time in a year, this time on charges of "material support for terrorism" and "conspiracy".
Tarek has since been held in solitary confinement at Plymouth County Correctional Facility, where he is expected to stay for the duration of his trial. Although the charges against him are not based on any new evidence or actions on Tarek's part, he is being held without the chance for bail.
Like the case of Sacco and Vanzetti, this is a case of a man who is beloved and respected in his community. His neighbors, coworkers, peers, and friends have had nothing but good comments on his character.
This is the case of a man of strong politics and principles. Not only was his refusal to become an informant for the FBI a political stance, but he also spoke out against US foreign policy and actively advocated for prisoners in his community.
This is the case of a man who was targeted, discriminated against, arrested and framed.
But Today, unlike in the days of Sacco and Vanzetti, we do not see anything close to the international outcry and movement to free our political prisoners. Tens of thousands were out on the streets of Boston alone for Sacco and Vanzetti. Very few prisoners, with the exception of Mumia Abu Jamal, have received such national and international support and mobilization in recent years.
The Tarek Mehanna Support Committee is working to spread awareness about Tarek's case, educate the public about the conditions of prisoners, and build a strong network to defend our communities from FBI abuse. In doing so we inevitably work to make the connections to movements and political prisoners of the past and present.
In the mission of the Sacco and Vanzetti Commemoration Society, while remembering our martyrs and celebrating our local radical history, we must actively show how their case is still very relevant today. We must come out strong to support and ultimately liberate our political prisoners.
All that said if you have any questions about Tarek's case or would like to find out how you can get involved, please come talk to me. Tarek's trial date has been set for October of 2011 - we need to take advantage of every day until then to mobilize strong and support him!
I will close by reading one of Tarek's most recent poems from prison:
Rise of the Fallen
"A body awoke
And looked to the sky
It loosened the choke
From a throat long dry.
Climbed up from below
The rubble and years,
I'll reap what I sow,
and I have no fears.
A Matter of time
The tables will turn
Emerge at my prime,
And my flame will burn.
The prisons can?' hold
Can't squeeze anymore
They'll collapse and fold
I'll walk out the door.
I hold this Tawhid
None can take away
I'll stick to this creed
I will never sway.
The fallen shall rise
The blind will soon see
Where my gravestone lies
I'll live and roam free
And Such are the Days"
Boston, August 22, 2010.