Home > Politics > Who is Tarek Mehanna?

Who is Tarek Mehanna?

Source: http://freetarek.com/

Tarek Mehanna is a 27 year old American-born Muslim Egyptian. Highly educated, he holds a doctorate in pharmacy from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. He is a devout, tolerant Muslim who is not only respected in the local Islamic and interfaith communities, but who also gives back to his community by fulfilling the roles of brother, educator, mentor, scholar, and friend. Tarek is described by those who know him well as humble, reserved, warm, peaceful, charismatic, knowledgeable, and dedicated.
For several years Tarek has been a victim of FBI surveillance and harassment. When Tarek refused to backstab the Mus lim community and be an informant for the FBI, they continually threatened him before taking an opportunity to arrest him in 2008. While Tarek was out on bail, FBI agents raided his home with an arrest warrant on October 21st, 2009.
Tarek was arrested again despite the lack of any new evidence since the prior apprehension. He is currently being held in solitary confinement, facing accusations of aiding and abetting terrorism. All of these FALSE charges have been fabricated by paid FBI informants. We ask you to join us to support our brother until he is released and home with his loving family.
In his own words:

Bismillah, was-Salama ‘alayki wa Rahmatullah wa Barakatuh;

I will try to answer your questions as well as I can.

I was arrested at my house in the morning, on October 21st. I had just finished making wudu’ for Fajr prayer and was going into my room to pray sunnah when the doorbell rang, followed by a series of loud knocks. My father, who had just gotten dressed for work, was startled at first, but knew who it was. He opened the door, and my house was suddenly filled with about a dozen FBI agents coming up to my room. They were extremely disrespectful to my father as they addressed him. As my mother emerged from the bedroom, I motioned for them to join me in Fajr prayer despite the presence of the FBI agents. So, we stood there and prayed in my room with the agents looking on (maybe they learned a thing or two). I then hugged my parents before I was handcuffed and led down the stairs and out into a waiting police cruiser. I was told that after I was gone, my cat ran down to the door and sat there waiting for me to come back. Loyal animals, ma sha’Allah (awww….).
I was then taken to the local police station and booked, had a mugshot and fingerprints taken, and called home for a few minutes. It was still barely 7:00AM. It was easier to calm my mother down this time because we had been through all of this before around the same time last year.

I was then driven from the local police station to the federal court in the city. The FBI agent who sat next to me in the back was taking a particular interest in how I learned Arabic, as he was in the process of trying to do the same. One should learn to not fall for the “friendly FBI agent” trick—they want only to pull as many statements out of you that they can later put to some legal document to be used against you. The driver wasn’t an FBI agent, but was rather a state trooper. See, the cowboys who go around making these cases and arrests are not solely FBI. They are part of what is called the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), which is a compendium of FBI, customs, state and local police, and other law enforcement agencies that combine their efforts in a focused group whose sole task is to fight Islam, (Oh sorry, I meant ‘terrorism’). They are all over the country.

Once I got to court, I was booked, mugshot, and fingerprinted again, then I was placed in a holding cell for a few hours until my afternoon hearing, where my charge was read out to me vaguely, and I was remanded to the custody of the US Marshalls. Now, the funny thing is that until now, I had no idea what exactly I was being accused of. It was only on my way from court to prison that night that I first heard on the radio the nonsense about malls and whatnot. No comment, really…no comment.

Once I arrived at the prison, I was booked yet a third time, strip-searched (they do that a lot here), and then given my complimentary orange jumpsuit, signaling my entry into the isolation unit. When I was in here last year, I was in population, which is relatively laid back. There were TVs, you could socialize, had plenty of time out of your cell, and so forth. Isolation is where the put you if you are uncontrollable in population, or you’re accused of something big. In isolation, you are on 23-hour lockdown, which means you can only be outside of your cell for one hour each day. You are alone in your cell for those 23-hours, you don’t have the privileges available to other prisoners, such as haircuts, taking classes, access to the library cart, etc. The cells here have one way intercoms, meaning the guard can radio in, but you can’t call out if you need something, while population cells have two-way intercoms. You aren’t visited by a chaplain, and so on. Basically, isolation is a place where you just exist, out of sight, out of mind.

Each cell is basically the size of a small bathroom. In fact imagine your bathroom with a metal toilet, the sink shrunk down and connected to the toilet as a single unit, a metal desk sticking out of the wall, a metal door, a small metal bed sticking out of the opposite wall, and the walls all painted a pale cream color. That is what the cell looks like. There is a narrow window in here, although it doesn’t let in sunlight due to the fact that it faces a gray wall. I do most of everything inside the cell: pray, read, sleep, etc. It is indeed a lovely little abode.

My daily activities here are quite limited. I alternate between praying (this is a great place to get used to more sunnahprayers), adkhar, reading the newspaper, reading a novel someone might slip under my door, writing in my journal, responding to letters, sitting back and thinking, and enjoying my hour of rec-time. You can also travel with your mind (smile).

As I said before, rec time is for exactly an hour a day. Your entertainment options include walking around the perimeter of the tiny unit, calling home, taking a shower, or using the rec-deck. The rec-deck is the closest thing we have in isolation to being able to go outside. It’s essentially a room-sized cage, with one side of cage facing the prison yard, allowing you to see trees, grass, smell fresh air, etc. Through the metal wiring. (hey, it could be worse). Two down-sides to rec-time are that your hour is at different, randomly selected time slots each day, so its hard to coordinate a phone call if someone’s at work, asleep, etc. Also, they don’t tell you ahead of time what time you will be out that day. SO, if you want to do some exercises in your cell in hopes of being able to shower right after, that doesn’t happen down here. They just radio into your cell and say “Rec-time, rec-time,” take it or leave it. The good part of rec (besides the obvious) is that they give you a 15-min warning when your time is almost up, so if you’ve been on the phone and want to shower before having to go back into your cell, that helps you to time yourself.

So, rec-time is the #1 highlight of the day here, mainly because it breaks the routine of being locked in the same cell 23 hours of the day. The second highlight of the day is mealtime. Mealtimes are useful for me in a way they aren’t for anyone else. See, in isolation, there is no way to know what time it is. They forbid watches or clocks of any kind here. However, I do know that officially, breakfast is served around 5:30AM, lunch around noontime, and dinner around 4:30PM. That way, I can know when to pray Fajr, Dhuhr, and Maghrib. I just estimate when ‘Asr and ‘Isha’ come in.

Meals are slid in through a slot in our doors. The food isn’t what you’d eat at home or out with friends, but its food and I’m grateful for it. Breakfast is usually some cereal or oatmeal, along with a small apple and milk. Lunch is usually steamed vegetables, two slices of white toast, a slice of “meat” and some potatoes or macaroni. Dinner is the same, except for what we call Fish Fridays, where we actually get something recognizable: a real fish sandwich similar to something you’d get at McDonald’s or something (see, they like to spoil us every so often). Judging by the portions we get for each meal, it seems the nutritionists at this fine institution are trying to strictly stick to the minimum 2,200 calorie daily requirement.

When I complete my daily dining experience, I pull out my ‘Maximum Security Toothpaste” (I’m not joking—that’s what it really says on the tube), and brush to my heart’s content with the eerie 2-inch long object that they tell me is supposed to be a toothbrush, although it really doesn’t reach many of my teeth without major effort.

Each wing of the each unit has what’s referred to as a runner. A runner is an inmate who’s already been sentenced, and volunteers to do the cleaning duties for the whole wing in return from more rec-time. The runner on my wing is cool, a Bosnian Croat. The nice thing about having a runner is that since they have to sweep the whole wing, they stop by every cell. That means I can chat with him every day, and we often get into some good conversations about Yugoslav politics and history. He is also instrumental in providing me with a daily copy of the newspaper. Of course my conversations with him take place from behind my cell door, but its one of the rare forms of interaction with others that are possible down here. So, al-hamdulillah.

Sometimes, some guards will stop while doing their rounds and have a couple of words with me, trying to have their own assessment of the Big Bad Terrorist, after what they’ve come across in the media. It was interesting to see their reactions when they discovered that I had no accent, that I was educated, polite, that I ate food, slept at night, and did all of the things that normal humans do. One of them, an ex-Marine, is pretty cool with me now and admits that after his few conversations with me, he’s finding it harder and harder to buy what he’s read in the news, and jokingly remarked that he’s now playing the part of my defense lawyer to the other guards in the unit. It is very easy to cause a stereotype, but it is also very easy to break one. Even in this unit, there are varying levels to how many restrictions are placed on a segregation inmate. For a while, I was on the highest level of restriction, which included full restraints. Full restraints means that whenever I was out of my cell, even for rec-time, I had my hands and feet shackled, then tied together—while I was on the phone, walking to the shower, walking around the unit—everything. Obviously, the impression the prison administration had from the media was the cause, as well as whatever they were told by the FBI. After awhile, I had a meeting with the captain of the unit, and the same thing occurred: once he had a personal encounter and conversation, observed my behavior, and got a more accurate assessment of who I was and why I was really here, they decided to take me off the full restraints, wal-hamdulillah.

There are obvious inconveniences associated with being in a place like this, but I’ll just mention two. The first is the total lack of a pleasant scent. Obviously, we have no cologne, musk, or anything like that. You are in a place that is meant to be dull, unpleasant, unstimulating, bland. The color of the walls, the color of your food, your clothes, accessories—everything is devoid of attraction. The smell in the air is always the same. Nothing to refresh you or enliven your senses. May Allah reward some of the brothers who wrote to me and were kind enough to rub some musk on the pages of their letters so that I could indulge from time to time.

The second annoyance is that I am surrounded by vulgarity and obscenity. Hearing other inmates yell out to each other from cell to cell, the majority of their conversations revolve around filthy topics, and it seems that the majority of their vocabularies consist of curses. It is to the point that the inmates here who are allowed to have rec-time together and play chess will refer to the Queen as “the b*@ch.” That gets to you after a while, especially when you’re used to being around pure, well-mannered brothers on a daily basis.

There was one inmate who I must credit with doing something to counter this. We will call him Nelson. Nelson had a very soft voice, and he thus saw it fit to constantly permeate the air with his renditions of his favorite Whitney Houston and Celine Dion classics. He would basically sing the unit to sleep every night, and wake us up in the morning with his singing. Most of the other guys in the unit were having none of that and would constantly scream at him to shut up. The more they would scream, the louder he would sing, which made them scream louder, and so on. Finally, they wrote a complaint to the unit captain, who came in and said: “Nelson, you have to stop singing.” Nelson said nothing. As soon as the captain was out the door, Nelson launched into another song. Eventually, the guards came in and transferred him to another unit. Poor Nelson. He was just trying to deal with the stress of isolation in the way he knew best…

Anyway, I thought I’d close with a poem I wrote recently, called:

“A Race Against Fate”
In a race against fate, they struggle to contain
The light of truth from making gain after gain
Sitting in this cell, I can never complain
While countless other victims are sharing my pain

Victims of a regime that stands confused
Of what will befall it after all it has abused
Despite its claimed virtues over those it has accused
It nullifies its claim with the tactics it has used

They tortured one brother into a painful mess
Until his torture forced him to falsely confess
Life in Supermax for what he said under duress
Seems to be acceptable in the present-day U.S.

And our sister, our pearl, a cover-up gone wrong
Imprisoned by her captors for six years too long
Shot twice in the stomach and still remaining strong
Sleeps in a prison cell where pearls don’t belong

And the scientist, the doctor, the scholar with a plight
They claimed they got him because he urged others to fight
The truth is that he never spoke out of fright
And his persecutors wanted to extinguish his light

The examples are many, but this is just a taste
Of those whose suffering should not go to waste
To helping the oppressed, let us run in haste
It is towards this goal that true men have raced

And remove from yourself the shackles of fear
And make their agenda abundantly clear
With honor, let us defend what we hold dear
Our beliefs, and our brethren—we must start from here

Until when will our sons be dragged from their beds
To be handcuffed and kidnapped by invading Feds
Before our mothers can even cover their heads
It’s the new McCarthyism, and we are the Reds

If you speak out against this, you’re a ‘terrorist’
The black label reserved for those who resist
It doesn’t really matter how much you insist
That you’re no monster, they will always persist

In the deception they have managed to master so well
That only the fair-minded are able to tell
That this plan that could’ve only been hatched in Hell
Is for all who speak up to be thrown in a cell

They think they are ‘free,’ but they are truly constrained
The thirst for oppression leaves their humanity restrained
In the end, they will see that all they have gained
Is the attention of He who defense those they have chained…

… was-salamu ‘alaykum wa Rahmatullah wa Barakatuh

Your brother,
Tariq Mehanna

Categories: Politics
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