Raleigh, N.C. — Five Triangle men accused in a 2009 terrorism plot pleaded not guilty Monday in federal court in Raleigh, and their supporters contend the government's case is overblown.
Dylan Boyd, 23, Mohammad Omar Aly Hassan, 23, Ziyad Yaghi, 22, Hysen Sherifi, 26, and Anes Subasic, 34, face multiple felony charges related to allegations they conspired to attack targets overseas. Sherifi also is charged in a planned attack on the Marine base in Quantico, Va.
A jury trial for Boyd, Hassan, Yaghi and Sherifi is scheduled to start on Sept. 19 in New Bern.
Chief U.S. District Judge Louise Flanagan ruled on Aug. 5 that Subasic would be tried separately. No date has been set for his trial.
A number of people from the Triangle's Islamic community showed up for a court hearing Monday to express support for the men. Afterward, some said they felt the men were being targeted because of their religion.
"We feel that we are all Americans," Mohamed Elmonaily said. "Being a Muslim, being Jewish, being a Christian, that shouldn't be in the whole equation. We feel that it's being treated this way. I hate to say that, but to an extent, it does exist."
Laila Yaghi said the government has twisted wiretaps and other recorded evidence against her son and the other defendants to make everyday activities sound like terrorist threats.
"Little things like my son going to kick-boxing became he's training for jihad," Laila Yaghi said. "Wake up, guys. Wake up. We're innocent people. We're normal American families."
Federal prosecutors and defense attorneys are still arguing over how to present the recorded evidence to a jury. Each side has its own interpretation of what was said on the tapes and who said it.
Farhan Mohammed said he believes the men were set up by a paid informant.
Subasic, who is representing himself in the case, boldly went beyond that belief during the court hearing.
"I'm being framed by crooks of the U.S. government," he told the judge.
Such outbursts prompted the other four men to request that they not be tried alongside of Subasic, fearing that he could prejudice the jury against them. Flanagan noted in her order that Subasic tends to lose focus in court proceedings and argue points that have already been decided.
Flanagan also ordered that Subasic be shackled during his trial because he tried to pick the lock on his handcuffs while in a holding cell last month. No decision has been made on whether the other defendants will be shackled during their trial.
Daniel Patrick Boyd, who authorities say was the leader of the terrorist cell, 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 younger son, Zakariya Boyd, 22, pleaded guilty in June to a single count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists. Dylan Boyd is Daniel Boyd's older son.
Daniel and Zak Boyd are awaiting sentencing, and both could testify against the others.
Supporters of the other five men said they doubt the validity of Daniel Boyd's claims.
"I think that he's not lying. He's just imagining these things taking place," supporter Hishem Sarsour said.
An eighth suspect in the plot is believed to be in Pakistan. A ninth member of the group was arrested in Kosovo two years ago, but the U.S. doesn't have an extradition treaty with that country.