Thursday, August 03, 2006

Serious Lack Of Evidence Against Padilla, Judge Says

It is becoming clearer that Jose Padilla, who was forced to languish in custody as an "enemy combatant" for years, is not the major league terrorist (the "dirty bomber") portrayed by the Justice Department.

The feds don't have a lot of evidence against him.

With much fanfare, the U.S. government charged Jose Padilla last fall in a South Florida terror-conspiracy indictment. He was brought to Miami in January under heavy guard, shackled hand and foot, helicopters flying overhead.

But now a federal judge says the case against him appears "very light on facts."

In the last week, U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke ordered prosecutors -- for the second time -- to provide more details to make their case against Padilla and codefendants Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi, accused of being part of a North American terrorist cell that supported Islamic jihad abroad.

Cooke said the Miami federal prosecutors' initial response was "insufficient." ...

The three defendants are charged with conspiring to "murder, kidnap and maim" people overseas and providing "material support" for terrorist activity. The indictment was originally filed in 2004, but Padilla, a former Broward resident, wasn't added until last November because the U.S. military had been holding him as an "enemy combatant" for more than three years -- a case that was almost heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Cooke ordered Miami federal prosecutors to supply evidence of transcripts of phone wiretaps that show the "manner and means" of the trio's terror conspiracy -- including "descriptions of the time, place, circumstances, causes, etc." of their activities. She set a Monday deadline to turn over that information to defense attorneys, who maintain the indictment lacks incriminating evidence.

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