- The Washington Times - Friday, May 18, 2007

MIAMI — A convicted terrorist testified yesterday that he trained at an al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan that federal prosecutors say was attended by terrorist suspect Jose Padilla.

Yahya Goba — a member of the New York-based “Lackawanna Six” group convicted in 2002 of providing material support to al Qaeda — said he flew to Pakistan from his home in upstate New York, then traveled to southern Afghanistan and trained at the remote al Farooq camp.

Wearing a loose-fitting prison uniform, Goba, 30, said he filled out a “mujahedeen data form” similar to the one prosecutors say Mr. Padilla completed in 2000.

Goba testified that he attended the camp in 2001 and recounted how trainees — the majority of whom were of Arab descent — were schooled in the use of assault rifles and explosives and engaged in rigorous physical exercise in preparation for Islamic holy war, or jihad.

After completing the six-week program, Goba said he returned to Pakistan and was instructed to destroy his passport, which he did by putting it in a washing machine.

Prosecutors are relying heavily on Goba’s testimony to illustrate that Mr. Padilla, whose fingerprints purportedly appear on a “mujahedeen data form,” also trained in the use of weaponry to wage jihad.

Defense attorneys for Mr. Padilla, 36, and his two co-defendants — Adham Amin Hassoun, 45, and Kifah Wael Jayyousi, 44 — were adamantly opposed to Goba’s testimony, saying it has nothing to do with the three men on trial.

During cross-examination, the defense asked Goba to elaborate on the meaning of jihad and whether he had planned to use his training in Afghanistan to “kill, kidnap or maim anyone.”

“Are you now, or have you ever been, a terrorist?” asked Mr. Padilla’s lawyer, Michael Caruso.

“No,” Goba said from the witness stand just a few feet from where Mr. Padilla sat listening to his testimony.

Prosecutors asked Goba about his own application form in which he falsified much of the information, denying he was a U.S. citizen and referring to himself as Yemeni. Goba’s parents were born in Yemen and he lived there until he was 19.

“I was told not to reveal my true identity,” he said, adding that “it wouldn’t be safe to put down that I was from America.”

Prosecutors and defense attorneys battled back and forth throughout Goba’s testimony, raising dozens of objections that prompted U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke to halt questioning several times throughout the testimony, which is expected to continue Monday.

At the beginning of yesterday’s testimony, Judge Cooke instructed the jury that what they were about to hear did not imply that Mr. Padilla and his co-defendants were in any way associated with Goba.

Mr. Padilla was arrested in 2002 at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. Shortly thereafter, he was said to have admitted to federal officials during initial interrogations in a military prison his involvement in a “dirty bomb” scheme and to training with al Qaeda. However, those confessions have been ruled inadmissible as evidence because he had not been read his Miranda rights and did not have legal counsel present at the time.

The Bush administration in November 2005 linked Mr. Padilla to the ongoing case in Miami, accusing him and other defendants of aiding terrorist groups worldwide.

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