Jury convicts NC men accused of terror plot
NEW BERN, NC -- A federal jury returned mostly guilty verdicts Thursday in the case of three North Carolina men accused of plotting terrorist attacks on the U.S. Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia, and targets overseas.
Mohammad Omar Aly Hassan, Ziyad Yaghi and Hysen Sherifi were convicted on charges that include conspiracy and weapons possession.
Hassan was found not guilty on the second count against him - conspiracy to murder, kidnap, maim, and injure persons in a foreign country.
All three men are either U.S. citizens or permanent legal residents.
Prosecutors say the trio were part of a group of men led by Willow Spring construction worker Daniel Boyd who allegedly conspired and trained to carry out acts of terrorism. Boyd and his two sons pleaded guilty earlier this year to charges related to a plan to kill or kidnap people during a 2007 trip to Israel. Israeli authorities denied them entry into the country.
Attorneys for the three men argued the federal government targeted them for being guilty by acquaintance due to their friendship with Boyd and his sons. The FBI paid three informants, including an illegal Moroccan immigrant and a convicted armed robber, about $200,000 to befriend Boyd and his circle.
In a nearly five-year sting, the FBI collected about 750 hours of audio and video surveillance, including a tape of Boyd telling one of the informants how easy it would be to attack the wives and children of U.S. service members living near the Marine base. Another tape included a theological debate about whether suicide bombings are permissible under Islam.
The government, through one of its paid informants, also provided Boyd access to firearms and a rural farm where he and other members of the alleged conspiracy could be recorded shooting the weapons. Prosecutors described the target practice, as well as a separate trip to a paintball facility, as military training of jihad.
Defense lawyers countered that none of the surveillance records included any of the three men on trial agreeing to be part of Boyd's plot.
In closing arguments Tuesday, the lawyers said their clients are guilty only of being acquainted with Boyd and saying "stupid" things, such as expressing admiration for those fighting against U.S. troops overseas. The defense said the expression of such views and using firearms are legal rights protected by the U.S. Constitution.
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