Padilla trained for ‘jihad’


Summary

The defence team insists the former Chicago gang member stands wrongly accused.

In his opening statements in the Miami courtroom, prosecutor Brian Frazier made no mention of the radioactive bomb plot that was cited when Padilla was arrested and placed in military detention in 2002 but that does not figure in the indictment.

Mr Frazier told the 12 jurors that Padilla and two co-accused were fully aware that “the central mission of al-Qaeda was the destruction of the United States and other countries” and took “concrete steps to support and promote this violence.”

But defence lawyer Anthony Natale insisted the government had no case against his client.

“Jose was not a member of any support cell because there wasn’t one. He did not commit violence. There were no victims, real or imaginary,” Mr Natale told the jurors.

Padilla, 36, who spent three-and-a-half years in military detention without charge before being moved to the civilian court system, is accused of plotting to murder, kidnap and maim people in Afghanistan and elsewhere outside the United States.

He and co-defendants Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi are also charged with belonging to a secret cell that supplied recruits and funding to Islamic extremists abroad.

“Padilla went further and provided himself,” Mr Frazier said. “He joined a terrorist training camp.”

The indictment alleges Padilla filled out an application to receive “violent jihad training” while in Afghanistan in July 2000.

Mr Frazier said another US citizen trained at the same camp would testify the training includes instruction in weapons handling and battlefield tactics.

But, as Padilla stood up facing the jurors, Mr Natale insisted his client “is a young man who has been wrongfully accused.”

He claimed Padilla and his co-defendants “presented no threat and committed no crime.”

The lawyers for Hassoun and Jayyousi portrayed their clients as men who cared deeply about the fate of fellow Muslims in conflict-torn areas, but never supported terror.

“There is no evidence of terrorism, of murder, of maiming, of kidnapping,” said William Swor, a lawyer for Jayyousi, a US citizen originally from Jordan.

“The government is twisting the facts out of all recognition” said Jeanne Baker, who represents Hassoun, a Lebanese-born Florida resident alleged to have recruited Padilla. “The government really is trying to put Al-Qaeda on trial,” Baker said.

Padilla, who was wearing a dark suit, showed no sign of emotion as he listened to the arguments.

If convicted, Padilla, also known as Abdullah al-Mujahir, could face life in prison.

He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and claimed he was tortured while in military detention.

A former Chicago gang member of Puerto Rican descent who converted to Islam, Padilla was detained in May 2002 at Chicago’s O’Hare airport after returning from Pakistan, and was taken to the naval base.

Then attorney-general John Ashcroft at the time justified holding Padilla as an “enemy combatant” saying he was suspected of planning to detonate a radioactive bomb in the United States.

Padilla was transferred to the civilian courts in 2005 as his lawyers prepared to challenge his military detention before the Supreme Court.

Padilla was born in Brooklyn, New York, and grew up in Chicago. He later moved to South Florida.


The defence team insists the former Chicago gang member stands wrongly accused.

In his opening statements in the Miami courtroom, prosecutor Brian Frazier made no mention of the radioactive bomb plot that was cited when Padilla was arrested and placed in military detention in 2002 but that does not figure in the indictment.

Mr Frazier told the 12 jurors that Padilla and two co-accused were fully aware that “the central mission of al-Qaeda was the destruction of the United States and other countries” and took “concrete steps to support and promote this violence.”

But defence lawyer Anthony Natale insisted the government had no case against his client.

“Jose was not a member of any support cell because there wasn’t one. He did not commit violence. There were no victims, real or imaginary,” Mr Natale told the jurors.

Padilla, 36, who spent three-and-a-half years in military detention without charge before being moved to the civilian court system, is accused of plotting to murder, kidnap and maim people in Afghanistan and elsewhere outside the United States.

He and co-defendants Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi are also charged with belonging to a secret cell that supplied recruits and funding to Islamic extremists abroad.

“Padilla went further and provided himself,” Mr Frazier said. “He joined a terrorist training camp.”

The indictment alleges Padilla filled out an application to receive “violent jihad training” while in Afghanistan in July 2000.

Mr Frazier said another US citizen trained at the same camp would testify the training includes instruction in weapons handling and battlefield tactics.

But, as Padilla stood up facing the jurors, Mr Natale insisted his client “is a young man who has been wrongfully accused.”

He claimed Padilla and his co-defendants “presented no threat and committed no crime.”

The lawyers for Hassoun and Jayyousi portrayed their clients as men who cared deeply about the fate of fellow Muslims in conflict-torn areas, but never supported terror.

“There is no evidence of terrorism, of murder, of maiming, of kidnapping,” said William Swor, a lawyer for Jayyousi, a US citizen originally from Jordan.

“The government is twisting the facts out of all recognition” said Jeanne Baker, who represents Hassoun, a Lebanese-born Florida resident alleged to have recruited Padilla. “The government really is trying to put Al-Qaeda on trial,” Baker said.

Padilla, who was wearing a dark suit, showed no sign of emotion as he listened to the arguments.

If convicted, Padilla, also known as Abdullah al-Mujahir, could face life in prison.

He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and claimed he was tortured while in military detention.

A former Chicago gang member of Puerto Rican descent who converted to Islam, Padilla was detained in May 2002 at Chicago’s O’Hare airport after returning from Pakistan, and was taken to the naval base.

Then attorney-general John Ashcroft at the time justified holding Padilla as an “enemy combatant” saying he was suspected of planning to detonate a radioactive bomb in the United States.

Padilla was transferred to the civilian courts in 2005 as his lawyers prepared to challenge his military detention before the Supreme Court.

Padilla was born in Brooklyn, New York, and grew up in Chicago. He later moved to South Florida.