The fathers of the three Muslim students shot in their Chapel Hill, North Carolina apartment spoke with The Associated Press before their funeral on Thursday, calling on Americans to understand that they died in a hate crime.

Craig Stephen Hicks is charged with first-degree murder in the shootings Tuesday of Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19.

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HOPES FOR JUSTICE

"I believe, hoping, praying hard that justice will be served and that at least he will face the death penalty. Going to an apartment, knocking on the door and shooting three innocent people — What other charge can there be? I can't imagine," Namee Barakat said.

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WERE THEY TARGETED AS MUSLIMS?

Dr. Mohammad Yousif Abu-Salha said he's certain of it.

"The minute our daughter moved in after her honeymoon, she just got married Dec. 27, the minute she moved in and he saw her wearing the hijab and her friends came to visit and her sister went to visit, he began to pick up arguments over everything," Abu-Salha said. "My daughter Yosur, the newlywed, told us two or three weeks ago that she felt that neighbor hated them for how they looked and who they were."

"This is a moment of truth. I have just viewed their bodies. I would not make up facts here. She mentioned that in details. She felt that he was hateful and he did not like them, who they were and the way they looked," he said. "I call upon the American people and the world to realize this was a hate crime and to treat it as such."

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CALLING ON PRESIDENT OBAMA

President Barack Obama must pay attention, Abu-Salha said.

"This is our country. We're here to stay. We want to make it safer for all the children of different religions and colors. The president needs to pay attention," he said. "They need to have an elaborate investigation. This is not a parking dispute. These children were executed."

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BELONGING IN AMERICA

"This country has been very good to us and very generous and warm. We love living here. Our children belong here," Abu-Salha said. "We love everybody in this country. We love everybody in the world. We want the world to be safe. We don't want anybody to be hurt. And since we can only love as Muslims we expect love back. I don't see this is going to create any more problems if there are people who are strong enough to look at the way it is and look at the facts."

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MUSLIMS IN THE MEDIA

"The media does not represent America. The media represents 2 percent of America who owns money and influence. If a Muslim commits a crime, it's on the news 24/7 for two months. When we are executed in numbers, it's on the news for seconds."

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REPRESENTING ISLAM

"We know that we have a lot of dark nights ahead of us," Abu-Salha said. "But we're believers. We're Muslim. We submit that God chose them when the time came. And we know that he chose them because they were so pure and innocent and too good to be here. We trust that. We believe they're martyrs. Anybody who dies for what they believe in and how they are and who are slayed unfairly, in our faith they are a martyr. They are teaching the world about our faith and who we are. This is Islam."