Without a plot, is Padilla guilty?
Prosecutors say they don't have to link the US citizen to a specific terror plan.
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Mr. Frazier rejects defense complaints that the government's standard is vague. "The narrative is fairly clear that Padilla was recruited to go overseas to participate in jihad," he says. "This is not the Boy Scouts; it is a terrorist organization."Skip to next paragraph
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Prosecutors say that Padilla and the two other men were part of a secret Al Qaeda support cell set up to facilitate a worldwide holy war.
To prove their case, they presented scores of secretly recorded telephone conversations in which the three men allegedly use coded language while discussing efforts to send money, equipment, and individuals to various Muslim hot spots in the late 1990s.
The areas included regions where Muslim civilians were facing massacres and other attacks, such as Kosovo, Bosnia, and Chechnya. Defense lawyers say their clients were seeking to protect and help Muslim victims, rather than wage a terror-driven jihad.
Prosecutors say the cell members spoke in code during telephone calls to throw US and other intelligence agents off their trail. In one instance, agents overheard a discussion of the purchase of $3,500 worth of "zucchini" in Lebanon. A government expert testified that zucchini was a code word for a type of munition.
In another transcript, agents recorded conversations discussing "football" in Somalia, believed to be a euphemism for Muslim guerrilla operations.
Evidence of ties to Al Qaeda
The case against Padilla centers on allegations that he was a willing recruit who attended an Al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan during the fall of 2000. The government produced a "mujahideen data form" allegedly completed by Padilla prior to attending the camp. An expert found Padilla's fingerprints on the form.
Defense lawyers deny that their client attended the training camp. They say the form does not prove Padilla's presence at the camp and suggest that the fingerprints might have been planted on the document later by handing it to Padilla while he was being interrogated by military officials in the US.
Padilla gained worldwide infamy in 2002 when he was taken into military custody as an enemy combatant suspected of plotting to detonate a radiological "dirty bomb" in the US. That allegation is not part of the current federal court case because the interrogation methods used to unearth the allegation are known to produce unreliable information and violated key protections of the criminal justice system.
Does terror training equal a conspiracy?
Instead of attempting to prove Padilla's participation in a particular plot, prosecutors say that his alleged presence at the Al Qaeda training camp is ample evidence of involvement in a murder conspiracy. "We know what happens there; people are trained to kill," Frazier says.
Defense lawyers quote the testimony of a cooperating government witness who said that not everyone who attended the Al Qaeda training camp emerged a terrorist.
Some attended the camp in the belief it was a religious obligation, said Yahya Goba, who trained at the camp and is now cooperating with the government. Mr. Goba testified that there was no binding requirement that trainees become terrorists.