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Brig officials tell court of incarceration

Published February 28, 2007


MIAMI - The exterior window in Jose Padilla's 80-square-foot cell in a Navy brig was painted over. At times, he had to sleep on a steel bunk with no mattress. He went months without a clock and was sometimes seen weeping in his cell.

But officials at the brig in Charleston, S.C., testified Tuesday that Padilla, accused of working with al-Qaida, was not physically abused during his 3 1/2 years in military custody, nor did he display serious symptoms of mental problems.

Craig Noble, the brig's main psychologist, and Sanford Seymour, the brig's technical director, testified for the first time in public Tuesday in Padilla's competency hearings. The hearings are to determine whether Padilla can stand trial in April on terrorism-related charges.

Padilla, a 36-year-old U.S. citizen and Muslim convert, was arrested in 2002 in Chicago in what U.S. authorities initially said was a mission to set off a radioactive "dirty bomb" in a major city. He was held at the brig without being charged after President Bush declared him an enemy combatant.

Padilla was added to a Miami terrorism support case in late 2005. That indictment does not mention the "dirty bomb" plot.

Two mental experts hired by Padilla's lawyers say he cannot assist in his defense because he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, which they say results from isolation and torture at the brig. U.S. officials deny he was tortured.

Noble said he examined Padilla when he arrived June 10, 2002, and again on May 14, 2004. He said Padilla had begun wearing glasses, but he found the second visit "unremarkable" for any signs of problems.

U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke scheduled closing arguments on the competency issue for today. It was not clear when she would rule.

Padilla and co-defendants Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi face up to life in prison if convicted of charges they were part of a North American terror support cell that provided recruits, money and supplies to Islamic extremist groups.

[Last modified February 28, 2007, 01:35:46]

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