Thursday, August 16, 2007
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 campaign to stop homegrown terror.
He was once accused of being part of an Al Qaeda plot to detonate a radioactive “dirty bomb” in the U.S., but those allegations were not part of his trial.
Padilla and co-defendants Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi face life in prison because they were convicted of conspiracy to murder, kidnap and maim people overseas. All three were also convicted of two terrorism material support counts that carry potential 15-year sentences each.
The judge set a Dec. 5 sentencing date for all three defendants.
Estela Lebron, Padilla’s mother, said she felt “a little bit sad” at the verdict but expected her son’s lawyers would appeal.
“I don’t know how they found Jose guilty. There was no evidence he was speaking in code,” she said, referring to FBI wiretap intercepts in which Padilla was overheard talking to Hassoun.
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.
[The key piece of physical evidence was a five-page form Padilla supposedly filled out in July 2000 to attend an Al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan, which would link the other two defendants as well to Usama 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.]
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 Arabic.
“His intent was to study, not to murder,” said Padilla attorney Michael Caruso. [Full Story]