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Padilla convicted on terrorism-support charges

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20298703/ Padilla convicted on terrorism-support charges One-time dirty bomb suspect, 2 others found guilty of aiding al-Qaida
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 16, 2007

      Padilla convicted on terrorism-support charges
      One-time dirty bomb suspect, 2 others found guilty of
      aiding al-Qaida

      Updated: 1 minute ago

      MIAMI - Jose Padilla was convicted of federal
      terrorism support charges Thursday after being held
      for 3 1/2 years as an enemy combatant in a case that
      came to symbolize the Bush administration's zeal to
      stop homegrown terror.

      Padilla, a U.S. citizen, was once accused of being
      part of an al-Qaida plot to detonate a radioactive
      "dirty bomb" in the U.S., but those allegations were
      not part of his trial.

      Padilla and his foreign-born co-defendants, Adham Amin
      Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi, were convicted by a
      jury of conspiracy to murder, kidnap and maim people
      overseas, which carries a penalty of life in prison.
      All three were also convicted of two terrorism
      material support counts, which carry potential 15-year
      sentences each.

      U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke set a Dec. 5
      sentencing date for all three defendants.

      The three were accused of being part of a North
      American support cell that provided supplies, money
      and recruits to groups of Islamic extremists. The
      defense contended they were trying to help persecuted
      Muslims in war zones with relief and humanitarian aid.

      Padilla was first detained in 2002 because of much
      more sensational accusations. The Bush administration
      portrayed Padilla, a U.S. citizen and Muslim convert,
      as a committed terrorist who was part of an al-Qaida
      plot to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb" in the
      U.S. The administration called his detention an
      important victory in the war against terrorism, not
      long after the Sept. 11 attacks.

      The charges brought in civilian court in Miami,
      however, were a pale shadow of those initial claims in
      part because Padilla, 36, was interrogated about the
      plot when he was held as an enemy combatant for 3 1/2
      years in military custody with no lawyer present and
      was not read his Miranda rights.

      'He provided himself to al-Qaida'
      Padilla's attorneys fought for years to get his case
      into federal court, and he was finally added to the
      Miami terrorism support indictment in late 2005 just
      as the U.S. Supreme Court was poised to consider
      President Bush's authority to continue detaining him.
      Padilla had lived in South Florida in the 1990s and
      was supposedly recruited by Hassoun at a mosque to
      become a mujahedeen fighter.

      The key piece of physical evidence was a five-page
      form Padilla supposedly filled out in July 2000 to
      attend an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan, which
      would link the other two defendants as well to Osama
      bin Laden's terrorist organization.

      The form, recovered by the CIA in 2001 in Afghanistan,
      contains seven of Padilla's fingerprints and several
      other personal identifiers, such as his birthdate and
      his ability to speak Spanish, English and Arabic.

      "He provided himself to al-Qaida for training to learn
      to murder, kidnap and maim," said Assistant U.S.
      Attorney Brian Frazier in closing arguments.

      Defense lawyer: Student, not terrorist
      Padilla's lawyers insisted the form was far from
      conclusive and denied that he was a "star recruit," as
      prosecutors claimed, of the North American support
      cell intending to become a terrorist. Padilla's
      attorneys said he traveled to Egypt in September 1998
      to learn Islam more deeply and become fluent in

      "His intent was to study, not to murder," said Padilla
      attorney Michael Caruso.

      Central to the investigation were some 300,000 FBI
      wiretap intercepts collected from 1993 to 2001, mainly
      involving Padilla's co-defendants Hassoun and Jayyousi
      and others. Most of the conversations were in Arabic
      and purportedly used code such as "tourism" and
      "football" for violent jihad or "zucchini" and
      "eggplant" instead of military weapons or ammunition.

      The bulk of these conversations and other evidence
      concerned efforts in the 1990s by Hassoun and
      Jayyousi, both 45, to assist Muslims in conflict zones
      such as Chechnya, Bosnia, Somalia, Afghanistan and

      Hassoun is a computer programmer of Palestinian
      descent who was born in Lebanon. Jayyousi is a civil
      engineer and public schools administrator who is a
      naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Jordan.
      Jayyousi also ran an organization called American
      Worldwide Relief and published a newsletter called the
      Islam Report that provided details of battles and
      political issues in the Muslim world.

      "It wasn't a terrorist operation. It was a relief
      operation," said Jayyousi attorney William Swor.
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