Armend Nimani / NBC News
In November, officials
linked him to ISIS members suspected of planning simultaneous attacks, including one targeting the Israeli soccer team.
Berisha eventually managed to join up with Ahrar al-Sham, a more moderate group that is not considered a terrorist organization by the U.N., the U.S. or the European Union.
“I refused to commit any kind of crime,” he said. “And I am very proud of this.”
Berisha decided to return home only five days later after calling his mother: “When I heard her voice I realized it was a mistake.”
He said at his trial in Kosovo that fellow fighters returned his passport after he faked a text message to make it look like a family member was gravely ill.
Berisha said he is now dedicated to doing his part for his country. But his prosecution and looming prison term are making it hard for his organization to do its work. That won’t stop him from trying, he said.
“Every religion has its own black sheep and we cannot deny that we do not have them. It’s just our responsibility to deal with them,” Berisha said. “We are protecting our religion from them, we are protecting our people from them, and we are protecting also other people from their activities.”
“In the first line of the war against extremism should be Muslims,” he said. “Not others.”