Privacy SOS

Among those individuals with Massachusetts ties that have been caught up in the “war on terror” are the following:

Maher Arar

Arar, a Canadian Citizen, resided in Massachusetts from September 1999 to April 2001 while he worked for the Natick software company MathWorks Inc. 

On September 26, 2002, when he was en route back to Canada from a family vacation in Tunisia, he was detained at Kennedy International Airport by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.  He was held in solitary confinement and questioned without access to a lawyer for two weeks.   He was then sent to his native Syria, where he was imprisoned in harsh conditions and tortured for a year.  He was finally released on October 5, 2003 and sent back to Canada. 

After an extensive investigation, the Canadian government cleared him of any links to terrorism and gave him  a $10.5 million settlement.  The United States government has refused to remove this victim of its policy of “extraordinary rendition” from its terrorism list. 

Arar has sued then-Attorney General John Ashcroft and other US officials, but the federal district and appeals courts have thrown out his suit on “state secrets” grounds.  The US Supreme Court then declined to hear his appeal.

Arar has had some kind of apology from Americans – if not the US government.  On October 18, 2007 he spoke by videolink to a House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee.  He described his treatment and said, “I now understand how fragile our human rights and freedoms are, and how easily they can be taken from us by the very same governments and institutions that have sworn to protect us.”

Massachusetts Representative Bill Delahunt then gave him a “personal apology,” and other subcommittee members chimed in.

Imam Muhammed Masood

The highly respected decade-long piritual leader of the Islamic Center of New England’s mosque in Sharon, Imam Masood was among the nearly three dozen imams charged criminally for being in the country illegally.  Most have either been deported or, like Masood, voluntarily left the country. 

Imam Masood was widely known for his moderate views and participation in interfaith services. His lawyer, Norman Zalkind, stated that the Masood case which should have been treated as simply an immigration matter and not a criminal investigation.  He said it reflected a prevailing government anti-Islamic bias and the fact that the US Attorney’s office had such a big budget for fighting terrorism. 

Among the other imams arrested for visa violations were Masood’s brother, Hafiz Muhammad Hamid, the imam of the Islamic Center of Greater Boston, who was subsequently deported, and his brother-in-law, Hafiz Abdul Hannan, who remains the imam at the Islamic Center of Greater Lowell where he frequently conducts interfaith services. 

Bloggers and local Islamophobes have seized on the fact that they are closely related to the founder of the Pakistani terrorist group  Lashkar e Taibeh to portray them as part of a terrorist conspiracy to establish a “long-term presence in the Bay State.” 

Tariq Mehanna

In October 2009, Mehanna, a 27-year-old pharmacist, was arrested at his parents’ home in Sudbury on conspiracy charges.  At the time, he was free on bail after being charged with lying to a federal official.  He is now being held solitary confinement at the Plymouth County Correctional Facility awaiting a trial due to begin in October 2011.

The FBI portrayed Mehanna, an American citizen, and his friend Ahmad Abousamra (now believed to be in Syria), as “inept but serious” jihadists who talked about staging attacks on US soil in 2003 but failed to get automatic weapons to carry them out, and tried unsuccessfully to enter a terrorist training camp in Yemen in 2004. The evidence submitted to the US District Court in Boston by the FBI included summaries of the videos he watched and his online efforts to “radicalize others.” 

Mehanna’s  supporters, who have been out in force at his court hearings, say that he is being punished for his opinions, and that he had long been harassed by the FBI.   His lawyer, J.W. Carney, Jr., told the court that Mehanna had been visited by the FBI three times between 2007 and 2008.  They “urged him to become a cooperating informant against individuals in the Muslim community and he declined.” According to Carney, he refused again to become an informant after the FBI warned him in April 2008 that he could face criminal charges for lying to federal agents 16 months before.  Carney said the case is really about expression protected by the First Amendment.

Aafia Siddiqui

Siddiqui is a Pakistani-born neuroscientist and mother of three who received her undergraduate degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and her Ph.D. from Brandeis in 2001.   On February 4, 2010, she was convicted by a New York jury of attempted murder, armed assault and using and carrying a firearm.  No physical evidence was presented in court to prove that she had touched the rifle which she allegedly fired at a group of US soldiers and FBI agents when under detention in Afghanistan.  None were injured, but she was shot in the stomach.

US officials say she is an Al Qaeda operative who disappeared from the United States in 2003 because her associates were being arrested and sent to Guantanamo. 

Human rights groups and the Pakistani public contend she was forcibly ‘disappeared’ during a trip to Pakistan, was tortured under interrogation and confined to Bagram prison. 

The jury was not told that she had been missing for 5 years, that 2 of her children are

missing  and that some former prisoners have identified her as ‘Gray Lady of Bagram.’  She was sentenced to 86 years in prison.

Emadeddin Montasser

The owner of Logan Furniture in Quincy and founder of Massachusetts Care International, Inc., Libya-born Emadeddin Montasser and two co-defendants faced substantial terrorism charges, including conspiring to defraud the US, soliciting funds to promote jihad and concealing the origins of his now-defunct charity. 

After a jury convicted him of the most serious charges, US District Court Judge Dennis Saylor threw out most of the convictions, citing flimsy evidence. In July 2008, he gave Montasser a year in prison for lying to the FBI about a trip he made to Afghanistan.

Judge Saylor acquitted Samir Al-Monla of Brookline, a US citizen of Lebanese descent, of charges that he conspired to defraud the US and conceal the origins of the charity, A third man, Muhamed Mubayyid, an Australian citizen of Lebanese descent who served as Care's treasurer, was cleared of conspiracy charges, but his conviction of filing false tax returns was allowed to stand.

The government appealed the judge’s ruling to the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in October 2010.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.