Local News

Terrorism suspects held without bond, moved to Virginia

Posted August 5, 2009 7:59 a.m. EDT
Updated August 6, 2009 8:03 a.m. EDT

— Six men accused of terrorist activities were moved late Wednesday from the Wake County Jail to the Piedmont Regional Jail in Farmville, Va., according to the U.S. Marshals Service.

Earlier in the day, a federal magistrate ordered the suspects be held without bond while awaiting trial.

After listening to more than a day of testimony by an FBI agent and secret tape recordings of statements by the Johnston County man who authorities said was the operation's ringleader, U.S. Magistrate William Webb determined that all six men pose a flight risk and a danger to the community if released.

Seven men – Daniel Patrick Boyd, 39, and his sons, Dylan Boyd, 22, and Zakariya "Zak" Boyd, 20; Hysen Sherifi, 24; Mohammad Omar Aly Hassan, 22; Ziyad Yaghi, 21; and Anes Subasic, 33 – were arrested and charged last week with plotting to murder, kidnap, maim and injure people overseas.

Subasic's hearing was postponed Wednesday because his court-appointed attorney and Yugoslavian interpreter asked to be removed from the case. His attorney blamed existing court obligations and personal matters, while the interpreter cited a conflict of interest since she had previously worked with the Subasic family.

An eighth suspect, Jude Kenan Mohammad, 20, of Wake County, is believed to be in Pakistan. Prosecutors say they hope to have him in custody soon.

Attorneys for several defendants argued Wednesday that most of the evidence presented by prosecutors and federal agents implicated Daniel Boyd and not their clients and that no specific targets were mentioned in the evidence.

"In listening to the evidence that was presented by the government, it was 90 percent or more that had to do with the Boyds or the other co-defendants and not much to do with Omar," Karl Knudsen, an attorney hired by Hassan's family, said after the hearing.

Defense attorneys also noted that the men's passports have been confiscated, so they cannot flee the country. Sherifi's attorney said the only reason he planned to travel to Kosovo last month was to visit his pregnant wife.

Also, Hassan's and Subasic's fathers said they would take custody of their sons if they were released, and Sherifi's second-cousin did likewise.

Yet Webb ruled that each of the defendants had contacts overseas and access to cash and could easily leave the country if released from custody.

Prosecutors maintained that the defendants pose a danger to the community if released. They called Daniel Boyd "an extremist" and said Subasic ordered books and supplies for sniper training and that Hassan and Yaghi had been arrested together twice on assault charges.

Webb questioned evidence the FBI gathered from unidentified informants, saying the prosecution was asking him to take the statements as fact when he had no way to judge the informants' truthfulness. Despite that, he said that all of the evidence presented convinced him that the defendants are security risks.

At least one defense attorney planned to appeal the ruling.

Families, supports left disappointed

Dozens of people gathered at the courthouse during the two-day hearing to support the accused men, saying government charges against them are unfounded.

They quietly filed out after Webb's ruling, having heard tape recordings and other evidence to support the terrorism allegations.

"It's not unexpected, but at the same time, knowing it and hearing it is a little bit (jarring)," said Khalilah Sabra, state director for the Muslim American Society. "There's emotion involved. You always have that little hope, but I think (the families) were prepared."

Sabra called the denial of bond "part of the process."

"I don't think anyone should interpret (the decision) as anything other than what it is," she said. "He has to make a decision based on all of the factors, and the decision he comes to is one we have to abide by and respect."

Still, families were disappointed, said Hassan's father, Aly Hassan. None of the defendants has been allowed to see family or friends in jail since their July 27 arrests, and during the hearing, about 30 people stood up in support of the younger Hassan's release.

"I just want to thank the community for their support. We all love our families – each one of us loves our family members and we love each other – and we're just trying to be patient at this time," Sabrina Boyd, the wife of Daniel Boyd and mother of Dylan and Zak Boyd, said as she left the courthouse.

Kieran Shanahan, a Raleigh lawyer and former federal prosecutor, said Webb was wise to focus on the conspiracy aspect of the charges and not get bogged down in the allegations of jihad.

"Maybe some of the individual activity in isolation wouldn't have supported (no bond), but given the context of it all, I think he had very little trouble reaching his conclusions," Shanahan said.

Evidence includes tapes, photos

On Tuesday, FBI Special Agent Mike Sutton testified that Daniel Boyd told a federal informant that he would bring jihad to the U.S. if he was unsuccessful overseas.

Prosecutors played scratchy tape recordings in court in which Daniel Boyd talks to family members and others about waging  a holy war on non-Muslims. He said he wanted to retake land in Algeria and collect "stolen wealth," according to the recordings.

"Allah knows I love jihad," he is heard saying in one recording.

Boyd also talked in the taped conversations about training with armor-piercing weapons, traveling overseas and robbing banks and armored cars.

According to the 14-page indictment, some of the men took trips over the past three years to Jordan, Kosovo, Pakistan and Israel "to engage in violent jihad."

"I should rejoice at the opportunity to punish the kafir," Sutton said Boyd told an informant. "Kafir" is an Arabic word commonly translated as "unbeliever," or someone who is not a follower of Islam.

The FBI agent also said Daniel Boyd and his sons failed in 2007 to meet up with Yaghi and Hassan in Israel to carry out their jihad. Subasic and Sherifi were trying to help Daniel Boyd develop new plans, the agent said.

A search of the Boyds' home in Willow Spring and Daniel Boyd's truck turned up 27,443 rounds of ammunition, Sutton said. A backpack in the truck contained a vest with numerous 30-round magazines.

Photos presented during the hearing showed fortress-like elements at the home, including a bunker on the back deck, a lookout stand in a tree, a cabinet near the front door filled with weapons, gas masks and a trench under the deck that a witness told authorities was designed to conceal weapons.

Shanahan said such evidence will weigh heavily against the men at trial, noting that it will be hard for them "to explain why they have AK-47s and armor-piercing bullets to hunt with."

Agents also found $13,000 in cash at the Boyds' home, and Dylan Boyd had a deposit slip for $16,000 that was dated July 21, Sutton said. Sherifi had $10,000 in cash as well, he said.

One of the allegations against the men was that they were raising money to fund terrorist activities.