Federal prosecutors based their case against Padilla, part of the U.S. governments war on terrorism, primarily on what they said was an application form to attend an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan in 2000. They never presented proof that he was at the camp.
José Padilla, a U.S. citizen, was arrested in May 2002 at Chicagos OHare International Airport as he arrived from Pakistan. U.S. officials claimed he was an al-Qaeda agent plotting to set off a radioactive dirty bomb in the United States. Two days before a judge was to hear a challenge to his imprisonment without charges, the Bush administration declared him an enemy combatant and transferred him to a Navy prison in South Carolina. U.S. officials insisted that as enemy combatant they could hold him indefinitely.
Padilla was held there in a small isolation cell for three and a half years, without charges and without access to his family or to his attorneyseven when he was being questioned. When he left that cell he was blindfolded and his ears covered. The government denied he was ever mistreated.
After the Supreme Court considered taking up his case to decide whether indefinite imprisonment of a U.S. citizen violates the Constitution, U.S. officials transferred him from military custody to a federal prison in Miami and decided to give him a civilian trial.
Washington never pursued the dirty bomb accusation. It was so flimsy it was not mentioned during Padillas three-month trial.
In addition to the application form, the case on Padilla rested largely on a July 1997 phone call between Padilla and Hassoun taped by the FBI. On the witness stand, FBI agent John Kavanaugh asserted that when Padilla said its gonna happen soon and over there in that phone call, he meant that he was going overseas to a jihad area to fight.
On cross-examination, Padillas attorney, Michael Caruso, who argued that his client went overseas solely to study Arabic and Islam, asked the FBI agent whether he ever heard Padilla discuss jihad training. Kavanaugh said no. Prosecutors said that when the other two defendants discussed playing football or eating cheese they were actually talking about aiding violent jihad.
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