A federal appeals court upheld the convictions and sentences of individuals involved in a North Carolina terror cell that plotted to wage violent jihad overseas. A federal jury convicted Mohammad Omar Aly Hassan, Ziyad Yaghi and Hysen Sherifi on terrorism-related charges in October 2011. The men were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 15 to 45 years.
The three appealed their sentences citing lack of sufficient evidence, their First and Second Amendment rights, and the use information gathered under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The Fourth Circuit Court rejected their claims stating, "The laudable efforts of law enforcement and the prosecutors have ensured that, on this occasion at least, we will not be left to second-guess how a terrorist attack could have been prevented."
Court records and evidence presented at the trial showed that members of the North Carolina terror cell sought to engage in violent jihad and die as martyrs. Daniel Patrick Boyd, the ringleader of the terror cell, had traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan in 1989 and 1992 to receive military-style training. He joined with mujahideen forces to fight Soviet troops in Afghanistan.
Several of the defendants also traveled to Israel in June 2007 with the desire to die "as martyrs in furtherance of violent jihad." After failing to get into the country, the men returned to the United States, where they scouted potential targets for attacks, including the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Va.
Boyd pleaded guilty in February 2011 and subsequently testified against several of his co-conspirators. He received a prison sentence of 18 years. Boyd's two sons, Zakaria and Dylan Boyd pleaded guilty to conspiring to providing material support to terrorists and received prison sentences between eight and nine years. Another defendant, Anes Subasic, was tried separately on immigration and terrorism charges and sentenced to 30 years in prison.
U.S. Attorney Thomas G. Walker applauded the Fourth Circuit decision saying, "[It] not only affirms the convictions and sentences of these individuals, but it affirms the dedication of the many agencies involved in this investigation and prosecution to protect our nation from harms both foreign and domestic."