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Anti-war activists Ahlam Mohsen and Max Kantar charged with felonies

Published Jan 6, 2011 9:58 PM

Indictments were handed down against Ahlam Mohsen and Max Kantar by a federal grand jury in western Michigan on Dec. 30. Each was charged with felony counts of forcible assault on a federal officer and assault on a member of Congress. The charges carry a penalty of eight years in prison.

Ahlam Mohsen
WW photos: Kris Hamel

Among the federal statutes cited in the indictments is one for “attempting to kill any officer or employee of the United States or of any agency of the U.S. Government.” This serious charge, which carries a penalty of up to 20 years in federal prison, has been leveled against Mohsen and Kantar, both age 23, because of actions they allegedly took against U.S. Senator Carl Levin while he attended a Democratic Party meeting in Big Rapids, Mich.

At that Aug. 16 meeting, Kantar read a prepared statement denouncing Levin, chair of the Armed Services Committee, for his complicity in the many war crimes carried out by the U.S. and its proxies against the peoples of Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. When Kantar finished, Mohsen allegedly “threw” an apple pie into Levin’s face.

Max Kantar

Mohsen, a senior at Michigan State University, was arrested and held on a quarter-million-dollar bond requiring $50,000 in bail. She was incarcerated at the Mecosta County Jail for more than a week. She was released on Aug. 24, while state charges were suspended pending an FBI investigation. The state charges for “stalking” and assault could still be pursued at any time.

The Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice sprang into action immediately following Mohsen’s arrest, organizing a protest outside Levin’s office at the federal building in downtown Detroit to demand the senator get the bond and the charges dropped. Levin has maintained that it is beyond the scope of his influence and abilities to have the charges dismissed.

Debbie Johnson, a leading MECAWI activist who is helping to organize defense activities on behalf of Kantar and Mohsen, told Workers World: “That these youth are facing fines and imprisonment for a pie in the face is an outrage. The act of pieing has a long history as a form of protest in the U.S., and this is yet another attack by the federal government to deny civil liberties and the right to protest against war, poverty and racism. Our tax dollars would be better spent if the government pursued the real criminals in society — the bankers, politicians and corporate honchos who have conspired to steal billions from working people.”

Johnson noted these indictments “should be viewed as part of the intensified campaign by the Obama administration to stifle dissent and jail and subpoena anti-war and solidarity activists. We strongly denounce the anti-Arab racism and anti-immigrant bias that are also at work here in terms of Sister Mohsen, who is of Yemeni origin.”

MECAWI is planning to mount a strong campaign to get the charges dropped against Mohsen and Kantar, and will hold a press conference and protest outside the federal courthouse in Grand Rapids, Mich., whenever the first hearing is held. The Committee to Free Ahlam Mohsen and Max Kantar is in formation. Visit www.mecawi.org for further updates.