A North Carolina MUSLIM man was sentenced Friday to four life terms for plotting to behead federal witnesses whose testimony helped convict him for his role in an earlier plot to slaughter U.S. Marines and their families.
ABC News Hysen Sherifi, 29, was one of six Raleigh-area Muslims convicted in 2011 of planning to attack the Marine base in Quantico, Va., and overseas targets.
Shortly after starting his 45-year prison sentence in the terror case, Sherifi approached another inmate to help him hire a hit man to behead government informants and FBI agents. He recruited his younger brother Shkumbin Sherifi, 23, and former special education teacher Nevine Aly Elshiekh, 48, to help pay the hit man and organize the murders.
But the inmate whose help Sherifi sought turned out to be yet another government informant. FBI agents then staged an elaborate sting that involved secretly videotaped meetings with a woman posing as the go-between for a fictional hit man named Treetop and doctored photos that appeared to show the corpse of a beheaded witness in a shallow grave.
Before Hysen Sherifi was sentenced, he lectured the judge about Islamic teachings. “The Koran is the truth that invalidates all other religions,” said Sherifi, who declined a court-appointed lawyer and represented himself at trial. “If you do not submit, he will severely judge you, and on the day of judgment you will enter hellfire.”
“That it?” asked Britt, who has served more than three decades on the federal bench. The judge then tacked the four life sentences onto the end of Sherifi’s earlier 45-year prison term, along with another 50 years on top of that.
“There can be no doubt Mr. Sherifi, the defendant in this case, meets the definition of a terrorist,” Britt said. “He was the genesis of this conspiracy. He was the mastermind, though I’m hesitant to use that term because it affords him more credit than he is due.”
The Sherifis are ethnic Albanians who fled Kosovo in 1999 during a brutal sectarian war with Serbs and ended up as refugees in Raleigh. Though Hysen gravitated toward militant Islam, his younger siblings acclimated more readily to life in America.
Among those testifying Friday was one of the government witnesses Hysen Sherifi wanted dead. Melvin Weeks was a U.S. Army soldier serving in Kosovo after the war when he met the older Sherifi, who was visiting his grandparents.
Weeks, a Muslim, said Sherifi praised Osama bin Laden and showed him jihadist videos that included a hostage being beheaded. Though an American bombing campaign had saved the ethnic Albanians from genocide just a few years earlier, Weeks said Sherifi called for holy war against the very nation that gave his family a new home.
“In my opinion, he is a devil manifested here on Earth, walking among us,” the former soldier said.