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Prosecutors close Padilla argument

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 14, 2007

MIAMI — A trio of South Florida terror suspects supported radical Muslim groups that killed and maimed presumed enemies of Islam in places such as Bosnia, Somalia and the Russian breakaway province Chechnya, federal prosecutors said yesterday in closing arguments to the months-long trial.

"People cannot commit violence just because their personal beliefs make it OK in their minds," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Frazier, referring to suspects Jose Padilla, Adham Hassoun and Kifah Jayyousi.

The three men are accused of providing material and monetary support to terror groups abroad. Mr. Padilla is also accused of being a willing recruit of al Qaeda.

Mr. Frazier zeroed in on Mr. Padilla, calling him the "star recruit" of Mr. Hassoun's and Mr. Jayyousi's, who prosecutors say orchestrated Mr. Padilla's travels to the Middle East to study Islam and Arabic before he headed to Afghanistan.

Prosecutors say Mr. Padilla, 36, trained at an al Qaeda camp in southern Afghanistan, where in 2000 he filled out the "mujahedeen data form" — on which federal investigators said they found seven of his fingerprints.

After Mr. Padilla's arrest in 2002 at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, John Ashcroft, who was then attorney general, said federal law-enforcement officials thwarted an al Qaeda plot involving Mr. Padilla to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb" on U.S. soil and blow up several apartment buildings in major American cities.

Mr. Padilla is said to have admitted involvement in the scheme and to training with al Qaeda to federal officials during initial interrogations in a military prison. Those confessions were eventually ruled inadmissible as evidence because the defendant was not read his Miranda rights nor was an attorney present during questioning.

Charges were never officially filed against Mr. Padilla during his incarceration in a Navy brig in South Carolina because usable evidence against him was lacking. The Bush administration in November 2005 then linked Mr. Padilla to the ongoing case in Miami.

Despite the accusation that he sought to join the ranks of terror groups abroad, prosecutors presented no physical evidence against Mr. Padilla other than the data form, rendering him a secondary suspect to Mr. Hassoun and Mr. Jayyousi, who were secretly recorded by the FBI in thousands of conversations during nearly a decade of surveillance.

In dozens of phone conversations played for the jury, both men were heard using words like "tourism" and "football," which prosecutors said were code for waging jihad abroad by supporting terror groups and providing them funding for weapons and other equipment. Mr. Padilla's voice was heard in seven of the recordings, though he did not use the purported code words.

Lawyers for Mr. Hassoun said in their closing argument yesterday that prosecutors' claims of coded language were "pure fantasy" and that the suspects sent relief supplies like food and clothing to Muslims abroad.

"Playing football is a word the government wants you to believe is about committing murder," Mr. Hassoun's attorney Ken Swartz said.

"They want to scare you ... don't fall for it," Mr. Swartz warned. "This was pure relief ... thinking anything else is pure fallacy."

Lawyers for Mr. Jayyousi and Mr. Padilla are scheduled to make their closing remarks today.