Raleigh (US): A man has been sentenced to four life terms for plotting to behead federal witnesses whose testimony helped convict him for his role in an earlier plot to slaughter US servicemen and their families.
Hysen Sherifi, 29, who was sentenced yesterday, was one of six Muslims convicted in 2011 of planning to attack the Marine base in Quantico, Virginia, 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 organise 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.
Federal prosecutors recommended leniency for the two co-conspirators, who pleaded guilty last year and agreed to testify at the elder Sherifi`s trial on nine felony counts. Citing their extensive cooperation, US District Senior Judge Earl Britt sentenced the younger Sherifi to 3 years in prison, while Elshiekh got three-and-a-half years. They had faced as much as 10 years each.
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 judgement 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."
Noting that the defendant was unsuccessful in killing anyone, Britt said Sherifi`s worst transgression was destroying the lives of his little brother Shkumbin and Elshiekh, with whom he had carried on a romantic dalliance from behind bars.