Padilla terrorism charge is revived

By Associated press
Published January 31, 2007

MIAMI - A federal appeals court on Tuesday reinstated a key terrorism charge, the only one carrying a potential life sentence, against Jose Padilla, who is accused of being an al-Qaida operative.

A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with federal prosecutors in Miami that the charge accusing the U.S. citizen and two co-defendants of conspiring to "murder, kidnap and maim" people overseas did not duplicate other counts in the indictment.

The Atlanta court reversed a decision in the summer by U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke, who said the three charges in the indictment contained nearly identical elements and could violate protections against double jeopardy.

Padilla was arrested in May 2002 at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, accused of plotting to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb" in a major U.S. city. President Bush designated Padilla an enemy combatant, and he was held without criminal charge for 3 1/2 years until he was added in 2005 to the Miami case. The dirty bomb allegations are not part of the Miami indictment.

Although defense attorneys can file a challenge, Tuesday's ruling brings the case a step closer to trial as scheduled April 16.

The other two main terrorism support charges against Padilla and his co-defendants carry maximum prison sentences of 15 years each.

Padilla, 36, is accused of being part of a North American terror support cell that provided personnel, materiel and money to extremist Islamic causes. He and his co-defendants - Adham Amin Hassoun, 44, and 45-year-old Kifah Wael Jayyousi - have pleaded not guilty.

Padilla says he was tortured in custody, and his lawyers say he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder that raises questions about his competence for trial.

Federal officials deny the torture allegations, but the judge ordered a competency exam.