Free speech instruction sought in terror trial

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Posted: Oct 26, 2011 1:53 PM
Free speech instruction sought in terror trial

Lawyers for a Massachusetts man accused of plotting to help al-Qaida have asked the trial judge to instruct the jury on his free speech rights under the U.S. Constitution.

Tarek Mehanna, of Sudbury, is charged with translating and distributing online publications promoting violent jihad. Prosecutors say he traveled to Yemen to seek training in a terrorist camp and conspired with others to kill U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

Mehanna's lawyers argue his online activities were protected by the First Amendment.

Testimony is scheduled to begin Thursday.

On Wednesday, his lawyers filed court documents asking Judge George O'Toole Jr. to tell the jury that the right to free speech includes the right to advocate force or violence, unless the speech is likely to incite "imminent lawless action." The judge didn't immediately rule.