A man accused in a terror plot to shoot shoppers at U.S. malls, assassinate two politicians and kill American troops in Iraq was denied bail Tuesday by a federal judge.
U.S. District Court Judge George O'Toole Jr. ruled against granting bail for Tarek Mehanna, who was seeking release to better consult with his lawyers and because his lawyers said the case against him was "paper thin."
O'Toole said Mehanna's appearance in court couldn't be guaranteed and that authorities have made it easy for him to consult with his lawyers.
"Some special accommodations have already been made for the defendant, however, such as the availability of a specially cleared computer for his use in custody," O'Toole wrote in his ruling.
Mehanna has been held without bail since October 2009 on charges including conspiring to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, al-Qaida.
The defense had asked that Mehanna be released on bail while he awaits trial, saying the case against him is "paper thin" and based on anti-American statements he made in instant messages protected by the First Amendment.
Janice Bassil, one of Mehanna's lawyers, argued that the government built its case against Mehanna mainly on a series of instant messages he sent in 2006. Bassil said Mehanna expressed his opposition to U.S. involvement in the Middle East, particularly the war in Iraq, and made statements about his admiration for Osama bin Laden. But Bassil said the messages do not show that Mehanna ever planned to try to kill anyone.
But prosecutors said Mehanna should be held without bail because he is still considered a flight risk. They said Mehanna conspired with two other men to kill American troops in Iraq, assassinate two unnamed U.S. politicians and shoot shoppers in U.S. malls. Authorities have said Mehanna and the other men never came close to pulling off an attack but unsuccessfully sought training at terrorist camps in the Middle East.
Mehanna was arrested in 2008 as he was about to board a flight to Saudi Arabia. He was charged then with lying to federal authorities on the whereabouts of a man suspected of training at an al-Qaida camp in Somalia. He was released on bail and remained free for nearly a year, when he was ordered held without bail after authorities added the more serious charge of conspiring to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.