Zachary Chesser

Virginia-born Zachary Chesser is a homegrown extremist and would-be foreign fighter who attempted to travel to Somalia to fight alongside al-Shabab. Chesser is known—alongside U.S. citizen Jesse Curtis Morton—for urging U.S.-based extremists to attack the writers of the television show South Park. The show’s writers had produced an episode in which the Islamic prophet Muhammad was depicted wearing a bear costume.“Wife of Zachary Chesser Pleads Guilty to Making False Statement,” FBI, November 8, 2010, https://www.fbi.gov/washingtondc/press-releases/2010/wfo110810b.htm;
“Zachary Chesser: A Case Study in Online Islamist Radicalization and Its Meaning for the Threat of Homegrown Terrorism,” United States Senate, February 2012, 12, http://www.hsgac.senate.gov/download/zachary-chesser-a-case-study-in-online-radicalization-.

In April 2010, Chesser and Morton issued a threat to South Park’s writers on their website revolutionmuslim.com. The pair warned that the writers might share the fate of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, who was murdered in 2004 for a film he directed criticizing misogyny in Islam.Edecio Martinez, “Zachary Chesser Threatened “South Park” Creators Over Muhammad, Now Charged in Terror Case,” CBS News, July 23, 2010, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/zachary-chesser-threatened-south-park-creators-over-muhammad-now-charged-in-terror-case/;
Joshua Rhett Miller, “Road to Radicalism: The Man Behind the ‘South Park’ Threats,” Fox News, April 23, 2010, http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/04/23/road-radicalism-man-south-park-threats/.
In May 2010, Chesser and Morton used revolutionmuslim.com to call for the murder of an artist tied to “Everybody Draw Mohammad Day,” an event in support of artists who had been threatened for drawing the Islamic prophet. “Leader of Revolution Muslim Pleads Guilty to Using Internet to Solicit Murder and Encourage Violent Extremism,” FBI, February 9, 2012, https://www.fbi.gov/washingtondc/press-releases/2012/leader-of-revolution-muslim-pleads-guilty-to-using-internet-to-solicit-murder-and-encourage-violent-extremism.

Chesser converted to Islam in the summer of 2008 while playing on a soccer team organized by a member of the transnational Islamist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir.“Zachary Chesser: A Case Study in Online Islamist Radicalization and Its Meaning for the Threat of Homegrown Terrorism,” United States Senate, February 2012, 5, http://www.hsgac.senate.gov/download/zachary-chesser-a-case-study-in-online-radicalization-. His writing soon appeared on the blog belonging to Anwar al-Awlaki—an American-Yemeni terrorist who was killed by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen in 2011. Chesser later admitted to corresponding with al-Awlaki via email.“Zachary Chesser Timeline,” Washington Post, accessed September 21, 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/metro/zac-chesser/.

In December 2009, Chesser created the blog “themujahidblog.com” to “[spread] knowledge regarding Jihad and the Mujahideen.” In June 2010, he posted his nearly 7,000-word manifesto titled “Raising Al Qaa’ida” to several jihadist websites.“Wife of Zachary Chesser Pleads Guilty to Making False Statement,” FBI, November 8, 2010, https://www.fbi.gov/washingtondc/press-releases/2010/wfo110810b.htm;
“Zachary Chesser: A Case Study in Online Islamist Radicalization and Its Meaning for the Threat of Homegrown Terrorism,” United States Senate, February 2012, 12, http://www.hsgac.senate.gov/download/zachary-chesser-a-case-study-in-online-radicalization-.


Excerpt #1 from Zachary Chesser’s 7,000-word manifesto titled “Raising Al Qaa’ida”
(Source: Washington Post)


Excerpt #2 from Zachary Chesser’s 7,000-word manifesto titled “Raising Al Qaa’ida”
(Source: Washington Post)

Approximately two weeks later, Chesser was stopped from boarding a flight with his infant son to Uganda, where he planned to continue onto Somalia to join al-Shabab. He was arrested approximately 20 days later and pled guilty in October 2010 to charges of “communicating threats against the writers of the South Park television show, soliciting violent jihadists to desensitize law enforcement, and attempting to provide material support to al Shabaab,” according to the FBI.“Wife of Zachary Chesser Pleads Guilty to Making False Statement,” FBI, November 8, 2010, https://www.fbi.gov/washingtondc/press-releases/2010/wfo110810b.htm. Four days following Chesser’s arrest, Morton fled to Morocco. He was arrested there on U.S. charges in May 2011.“Leader of Revolution Muslim Pleads Guilty to Using Internet to Solicit Murder and Encourage Violent Extremism,” FBI, February 9, 2012, https://www.fbi.gov/washingtondc/press-releases/2012/leader-of-revolution-muslim-pleads-guilty-to-using-internet-to-solicit-murder-and-encourage-violent-extremism.

Chesser’s wife, Ugandan national Proscovia Kampire Nzabanita, had reportedly planned to meet Chesser in Somalia. In November 2010, Nzabanita pleaded guilty to making a false statement to a special agent investigating her husband. She also admitted that in 2009, she and her husband attempted to travel to Somalia so that Chesser could join al-Shabab. Nzabanita later faced deportation and reportedly fled to Jordan.Associated Press, “‘South Park’ Terror Convict Zachary Chesser: My Mother And The FBI Violated My Rights,” Huffington Post, March 25, 2015, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/25/zachary-chesser_n_6943196.html.

In June 2014, Chesser was transferred from prison in Illinois to a Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, after he repeatedly organized unauthorized meetings with Muslim inmates.Meg Wagner, “Convict who threatened 'South Park' creators sues prison, claims it's difficult to practice Islam behind bars,” New York Daily News, January 9, 2015, http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/south-park-terrorist-sues-prison-hindering-faith-article-1.2071959. He was later transferred to United States Penitentiary Hazelton in West Virginia. Chesser is due to be released in January 2032.“Zachary Adam Chesser,” Find an Inmate – Federal Bureau of Prisons, https://www.bop.gov/inmateloc/.

 
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