Three Triangle men convicted of terrorism conspiracy
Posted October 13, 2011 2:11 p.m. EDT
Updated October 14, 2011 6:52 a.m. EDT
NEW BERN, N.C. — A jury on Thursday found three Triangle men guilty of conspiring to aid terrorist activities overseas.
Mohammad Omar Aly Hassan, 23, Ziyad Yaghi, 22, and Hysen Sherifi, 26, were among seven area men arrested in July 2009 on charges that they raised money to buy assault weapons and conduct training exercises. They also were accused of arranging overseas travel and contacts to help others carry out violent acts on behalf of a radical jihadist political agenda.
Jurors deliberated for about 10 hours over two days before finding all three guilty of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists. Yaghi and Sherifi also were convicted of conspiracy to murder, kidnap, maim and injure people, but the jury acquitted Hassan on that charge.
Sherifi also was found guilty of two weapons counts and a charge of conspiracy to kill federal employees for a plot to attack the Marine base in Quantico, Va.
Relatives of the three men wept and expressed disbelief as they left the federal courthouse in New Bern.
"The truth will come. It's a long nightmare. It's not over," said Hassan's father, Aly Hassan. "Omar is innocent, and with the appeal, I'm sure he's going to come out."
Sherifi and Yaghi face up to life in prison when they are sentenced later, while Hassan faces up to 15 years in prison.
Aly Hassan said they were upset the trial started a week after the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C.
"People came here scared," he said. "We still love this country. We defend this country. If there's anything again in this country, we'll be the first people to fight for it. So, that's why we're so disappointed (by the verdicts)."
The government spent three weeks presenting its case against the trio, including testimony from the accused ringleader of the terror cell, Daniel Patrick Boyd, his two sons and confidential FBI informants.
Boyd pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy charges, and sons Dylan and Zakariya Boyd also have pleaded guilty in the case. All three will be sentenced later.
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.
During closing arguments Tuesday, prosecutors said Hassan, Sherifi and Yaghi had a mutual understanding and an objective. They pointed to 77 phone calls between Yaghi and Daniel Boyd as evidence of a relationship and not just an acquaintance.
“What we have before us is a stark and frightening reality,” said Jason Kellhofer of the U.S. Justice Department.
Defense lawyers say the men were not privy to Daniel Boyd's plans and the government's case comes down to prosecuting Muslim men for debating controversial ideas within their religion and watching jihadist videos on their computers.
Hassan and Yaghi presented no evidence in their defense, while Sherifi chose to testify Monday. He dismissed audio recordings of his discussions with Daniel Boyd in which he appeared to be plotting attacks, saying he was merely translating information for others, was quoting anti-American statements made by others or was only trying to please an FBI informant who pressured him into supporting radical actions.
A seventh defendant, Anes Subasic, will have a separate trial after deciding to represent himself in court.
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.