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Padilla trial prosecution rests
Question of the Day
MIAMI — Federal prosecutors rested their case yesterday against suspected terrorist Jose Padilla and his two co-defendants after nine weeks of testimony about al Qaeda training camps and code words for waging Islamic holy war.
The prosecution ended its case by calling back to the witness stand FBI linguist Joyce Kandalaft, who testified that the name of fellow suspect Adham Amin Hassoun was on a card Mr. Padilla was carrying when he was arrested in May 2002 after landing at O”Hare International Airport in Chicago.
The FBI linguist also told prosecutors that notes scrawled in Arabic on some checks Mr. Hassoun made out to Muslim charities contained the word “tourism,” which the government contends is code for jihad, or holy war.
Notes on the checks belonging to Mr. Hassoun also frequently mention “brothers,” a so-called coded way of addressing fellow mujahedeen.
“Have you ever known the word brother to mean mujahedeen brother?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell Killinger asked.
“Yes, I have,” Miss Kandalaft said.
During their case, prosecutors called to the witness stand 22 specialists on terrorism, several federal agents and Arabic translators. The focus of their testimony was a so-called “mujahedeen data form” that Mr. Padilla purportedly filled out after training at an al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan, as well as clandestinely recorded phone conversations involving Mr. Padilla, Mr. Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi.
In the calls, the suspects were said to be using code words like “married” to mean someone was killed while fighting on the side of Muslims in places such as Chechnya, Kosovo and Somalia.
However, defense lawyers contended that in many cases the specialists and prosecution were misinterpreting the conversations among the defendants.
Although Mr. Padilla is considered the lead suspect in the case, the prosecution’s evidence against him has been limited compared with Mr. Hassoun and Mr. Jayyousi. Among the 300,000 conversations recorded by the government during almost a year of surveillance, only seven played for the jury included Mr. Padilla, once considered an enemy combatant by the United States.
After Mr. Padilla’s arrest in 2002, Attorney General John Ashcroft said federal law-enforcement officials had thwarted an al Qaeda plot involving the 36-year-old Chicago native to detonate a “dirty bomb” on U.S. soil and blow up several apartment buildings in major American cities.
The government did not file charges against Mr. Padilla because it was unable to gather enough usable evidence against him. In November 2005, the Bush administration linked Mr. Padilla to an ongoing case in Miami, accusing him and other defendants of aiding terrorist groups worldwide.
Defense lawyers for Mr. Padilla and his two co-defendants begin presenting their case next week.
By Michael P. Orsi
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