MIAMI — Attorneys for three South Florida terror defendants yesterday called the prosecution's case against the trio overreaching and accused federal attorneys of failing to present credible evidence that the men provided material support to Islamic extremist groups abroad.
"The government has absolutely failed to deliver on those promises" to provide evidence linking the defendants to Muslim groups fighting in places such as the Russian breakaway province of Chechnya, as well as Bosnia and Kosovo during the 1990s, said Chief Assistant Federal Defender Michael Caruso, lead counsel for U.S.-born suspect Jose Padilla.
Closing remarks yesterday by Mr. Padilla's defense ended weeks of relative silence on the part of suspect's counsel, which called no witnesses in defense of their client, part of what legal analysts said could be a concerted effort to project to the jury a certain sense of confidence that Mr. Padilla's attorneys have in the strength of their case.
Federal prosecutors contended that Mr. Padilla trained in weapons and explosives at an al Qaeda camp in southern Afghanistan. After completing his training, Mr. Padilla reportedly filled out the "mujahedeen data form" found in that country by the CIA. The form contained seven of Mr. Padilla's fingerprints, the prosecution said.
Mr. Caruso reminded jurors at the end of the three-month-long trial that Mr. Padilla's fingerprints appeared only on the first and last pages of the five-page form and raised questions as to why the government did not seek a palm print from the suspect to determine whether it matched an unknown palm print found on the inside pages.
The data form reportedly completed by Mr. Padilla has been the focus of the government's case against the 36-year-old Muslim convert. Though federal prosecutors assert that Mr. Padilla sought to join the ranks of terrorists abroad, they presented no physical evidence against Mr. Padilla other than the data form.
During the government's rebuttal, Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Frazier noted that all the personal information about Mr. Padilla recorded on the form was a "perfect match" and that the "evidence points unequivocally to the guilt of all these defendants."
Mr. Padilla, Adham Hassoun and Kifah Jayyousi 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.
In heated final remarks often punctuated with sighs of exasperation, Mr. Jayyousi's defense attorney William Swor accused prosecutors of capitalizing on negative stereotypes of Islam after the September 11 terror attacks and failing to provide concrete evidence of his client's association with terror groups.
Jurors will begin deliberating the case today, said U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke.