A US man was sentenced on Thursday to 25 years in prison on terror charges, including threatening the creators of the animated television series South Park for portraying the Prophet Mohammed in a bear suit.
Zachary Adam Chesser, 21, who grew up in the suburbs of Washington, pleaded guilty in October to providing material support to a terror group and inciting violence against the South Park creators.
“Zachary Chesser will spend 25 years in prison for advocating the murder of US citizens for engaging in free speech about his religion,” US Attorney Neil MacBride said.
In his plea, Chesser admitted encouraging violent jihadists to attack the writers of South Park, among other targets. He wrote on an extremist Web site that creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker risked the same fate as slain Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, who was murdered by a Muslim extremist in Amsterdam in 2004.
He also posted speeches by Anwar al-Awlaki which detailed the Islamic justification for killing those who insult or defame Mohammed.
Chesser also pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to al-Shabaab, a Somalia-based group dubbed by the US State Department as a terror organization affiliated to al-Qaeda.
Chesser admitted that he twice tried to travel to Somalia to join Al-Shabaab. In July, he was arrested while trying to leave for the second time, using his infant son as “cover.”
He also advocated placing suspicious-looking but innocent packages in public places in an effort to “desensitize law enforcement” to potential explosive devices, according to the US Justice Department. Once police were used to seeing the benign packages, real ones could be detonated.
FBI director Robert Mueller has described a shift in al-Qaeda’s recruitment strategy, saying that since 2006, the network has focused on US citizens or legal residents instead of volunteers from the Middle East or South Asia.
“In admitting his guilt today, Mr Chesser reminded us of the serious threat homegrown jihadists pose to this country,” MacBride said.