Father's plea for woman's release in beheading plot unheeded
Posted February 3, 2012
Updated March 8, 2012
WILMINGTON, N.C. — A federal judge on Friday ordered a woman to remain in custody pending her trial on murder-for-hire charges linked to a local terrorism case, despite her father's request to have her released into his custody.
Nevine Aly Elshiekh, 46, was arrested last month after FBI agents tracked her to a meeting in Wilmington with a government informant posing as a hit man's representative. Authorities allege that Hysen Sherifi, who is serving a 45-year federal prison sentence for plotting to attack the Marine base at Quantico, Va., and targets overseas, wanted three witnesses from his trial last fall killed.
Elshiekh struck up a relationship with Sherifi after his trial, which she attended because she is a family friend of co-defendant Omar Hassan, FBI agent Julia Hanish said.
Aly Elshiekh told U.S. Magistrate Robert Jones that he would keep his daughter under watch around the clock if she was released.
An 80-year-old native of Egypt, Aly Elshiekh taught at North Carolina State University's College of Textiles before retiring in 2000. He now runs a restaurant near his west Raleigh home.
"If she did wrong, she will be judged. If she was conned, I hope the system will take care of that and take that into consideration," he testified.
FBI agents say Nevine Elshiekh provided the informant with the names of those to be killed and a $750 down payment toward the first hit.
Charles Swift, one of two high-profile attorneys representing Elshiekh, tried to portray her as a pawn in Sherifi's scheme, noting she was just a courier who passed along information from Sherifi and never knew that he wanted people beheaded.
"The evidence we'll show is that she's a woman, that she was recently divorced and that she was a victim of an evil man," he said after the hearing.
Hanish testified, however, that Elshiekh admitted to authorities after her arrest that she knew the information she carried involved a planned killing.
"She acknowledged she understood there was to be a killing," Hanish said.
Elshiekh has led the special education program at Sterling Montessori Academy and Charter School in Morrisville for nine years. She is now on leave from the school.
Her father said she would like to be released so she can return to teaching.
"She misses her kids. The kids miss her," Aly Elshiekh said.
Jones ruled that Elshiekh is a flight risk because she has relatives in Egypt and because authorities said they cannot find her passport.
In addition to Swift, a Navy JAG officer who represented Osama Bin Laden's driver in a U.S. Supreme Court case, Linda Moreno is also working Elshiekh's case. Moreno defended Sami Al-Arian, the former N.C. State professor who was convicted of supporting terrorism.
The attorneys said they were disappointed that Elshiekh wasn't released, and they plan to appeal, saying electronic monitoring could be used to ensure she doesn't flee.
"We do feel very good that, in a case where it's alleged our client was part of this conspiracy of murder-for-hire, the courts found specifically that she was not a danger to the community," Moreno said. "The fair inference from that is that she is not a violent person."
Jones last week ordered Shkumbin Sherifi, the 21-year-old brother of the terror defendant, to remain in custody in the murder-for-hire case, calling him a flight risk.
Authorities allege that Shkumbin Sherifi also paid the informant for the killing and later took a doctored photo of a beheaded corpse to show his brother in prison.