Padilla jurors listen to wiretaps

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MIAMI — Prosecutors in the trial of Jose Padilla yesterday played for the jury a selection of conversations recorded during the late 1990s in which the terrorist suspect and others are thought to discuss waging jihad, or holy war, in Kosovo.

FBI Special Agent John Kavanaugh continued testimony that began Friday about Mr. Padilla and fellow defendant Adham Amin Hassoun, who purportedly discussed opportunities for Mr. Padilla to travel abroad to participate in jihad.

The conversations played yesterday were peppered with code words and phrases that Mr. Kavanaugh said referred to violent jihad. Defense attorneys contend, however, that the prosecution is reading malicious intent into the conversations laden with phrases about “picnics” and “football,” referring to soccer.

The FBI said it recorded about 300,000 phone conversations in an investigation of a South Florida terrorist-support cell that the agency said included Mr. Padilla, Mr. Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi. All three men are charged with providing money, equipment and material support to terrorist organizations abroad. Mr. Padilla, 36, also is charged with being a willing recruit of al Qaeda.

Mr. Hassoun is accused of encouraging Mr. Padilla and others to travel overseas to study Arabic and participate in jihad. Prosecutors hoped to convince jurors that after his studies in Cairo, Mr. Padilla traveled to Afghanistan. Once there, he trained in warfare and terrorist tactics at a camp run by al Qaeda, prosecutors say.

Prosecutors plan to play 123 selections of the recorded conversations. Mr. Padilla’s voice can be heard on seven of them.

Last week, defense attorneys told U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke that they were adamantly opposed to the prosecution’s plan to have an FBI agent testify about the meaning of the so-called code words.

Yesterday, prosecutor Brian Frazier asked Mr. Kavanaugh to interpret what Mr. Hassoun meant when he asked another man in a conversation taped in 1998 whether “70 got married completely?”

“It means 70 [Muslim fighters] got martyred [were killed] in Kosovo,” Mr. Kavanaugh said.

Other purported code words used by Mr. Hassoun in conversations include “Spanish brother” and “Ibrahim,” both supposed references to Mr. Padilla.

Last week, a recording of Mr. Padilla was played for the jury in which he criticized another terror suspect for talking too much on the phone.

Mr. Padilla was arrested at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport in 2002. Attorney General John Ashcroft said federal law-enforcement officials had thwarted an al Qaeda plot involving Mr. Padilla to detonate a “dirty bomb” on U.S. soil and blow up several apartment buildings in major American cities.

The lead defendant in the South Florida support-cell case was then incarcerated in a Navy brig in South Carolina, but charges were not filed because of a failure 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 terror groups worldwide. Mr. Padilla then was transferred to a South Florida federal detention center.

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