Intent key in trial of Triangle terrorism suspects
Posted September 20, 2011
New Bern, N.C. — Federal prosecutors told jurors Tuesday that three Triangle men accused of plotting terrorist attacks worked toward carrying them out, while defense attorneys maintained there was never any conspiracy.
Mohammad Omar Aly Hassan, Ziyad Yaghi and Hysen Sherifi face multiple felony charges related to allegations they conspired to attack targets overseas. Sherifi also is accused of plotting an attack on the Marine base in Quantico, Va.
A federal indictment unsealed in 2009 alleges that they and five other Triangle men raised money to buy assault weapons and conduct training exercises and that they arranged overseas travel and contacts to help others carry out violent acts on behalf of a radical jihadist political agenda.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John Bowler said in his opening statement that Hassan, Yaghi and Sherifi were "an integral part" of the plot and asked for jurors' patience while the government laid out its complex case, which started in 2006 with a tip from someone in the Muslim community.
Accused ringleader Daniel Patrick Boyd pleaded guilty in February to charges of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and conspiracy to murder, kidnap, maim and injure persons in a foreign country. His sons, Dylan and Zakariya Boyd, have also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.
Daniel Boyd is expected to be a star witness for the government in the trial, and Bowler said two or three undercover informants also will testify about the group's activities.
Defense lawyers quickly attacked Boyd's credibility, saying he manipulated young men and regularly spouted off his beliefs.
Dan Boyce, the attorney for Hassan, called Boyd "a sick, demented man," while Yaghi's attorney, Jim Ayers, called him "every parent's worst nightmare."
The lawyers portrayed their clients as typical teens trying to balance the Islamic and Western influences in their lives. They also did and said stupid things, like writing anti-American statements on their Facebook pages, the attorneys said, adding that having such opinions doesn't make them terrorists.
Robert McAfee, the attorney for Sherifi, also said there was no agreement between his client and Boyd to wage jihad. Although Bowler said the government has hours of recorded conversations between Boyd and Sherifi, McAfee contends that Sherifi is usually just listening to Boyd's rants.
McAfee also blamed a government informant known as "Jawbreaker" for thrusting the two men together. The informant used FBI money to pay for Sherifi to return to the U.S. from Kosovo, where he was living with his wife and child, the attorney said.
An FBI search of Daniel Boyd's Willow Spring home in 2009 turned up about two dozen guns and more than 27,000 rounds of ammunition. Authorities said he and the other men trained in the weeks leading up to their arrest, practicing military tactics with armor-piercing bullets in Caswell County.
A seventh defendant, Anes Subasic, is representing himself and will be tried after the case against Hassan, Yaghi and Sherifi is finished. Their trial is expected to last five weeks.
Authorities believe another man charged in the case, Jude Kenan Mohammad, 22, is in Pakistan. A ninth member of the group, Bajram Asllani, 30, was arrested in Kosovo last year, but the U.S. doesn't have an extradition treaty with that country.