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Vol. 72/No. 6      February 11, 2008

U.S. court gives Padilla 17 years
on ‘terror’ conspiracy charge
(front page)
A federal court sentenced José Padilla January 22 to 17 years in prison on charges of conspiring to commit unspecified “terrorist” acts overseas and providing material aid to Islamist forces abroad. Two other men, Adham Hassoun and Kifah Jayyousi, were convicted on the same charges and given 15 years and 12 years, respectively.

Padilla is the first U.S. citizen to be arrested as an “enemy combatant,” a label under which the U.S. government claimed the right to jail him indefinitely and deny him many legal protections. Jayyousi is a U.S. citizen and Hassoun a 13-year U.S. resident.

Padilla, now 37, was arrested at Chicago’s O’Hare airport in 2002 on his return from Pakistan. U.S. authorities claimed he was part of an “unfolding terrorist plot to attack the United States” by detonating a radioactive “dirty bomb.” He was locked up without charges in a Navy brig for three and a half years, facing harsh conditions and initially denied legal counsel. In 2006, when it appeared the Supreme Court would rule his indefinite detention unconstitutional, federal officials transferred his case to civilian courts.

Lacking evidence to charge Padilla with the alleged dirty bomb plot, the government slapped overseas conspiracy charges against the three men. The case rested on taped conversations Padilla had with co-defendants and a supposed application in Afghanistan to attend a Mujahedeen training camp, which prosecutors said was filled out with Padilla’s Muslim name, Abdullah al-Muhajir.

A key piece of evidence in the government’s case was a conversation in which Padilla told Hassoun “It’s gonna happen soon” and “over there.” The prosecution alleged that when they discussed “playing football” or “eating cheese” they were actually talking about aiding “violent jihad.”

Prosecutors had sought a life sentence against Padilla. In sentencing him to 17 years, Judge Maria Cooke said she based her “leniency” in part on the conditions that were imposed on him in the Navy brig. “Mr. Padilla was held in hard conditions, without a mattress, a Koran, books, a clock, entertainment, or interaction with relatives or visitors,” she said. “Even an attorney was denied him.”

Padilla’s lawyers had filed a motion for dismissal on the basis of “outrageous government conduct,” which the court rejected.

The government claimed Padilla was treated humanely. However, it neither denied nor confirmed his detailed accounts of mistreatment. These included sleep and sensory deprivation, stress positions, exposure to noxious fumes and temperature extremes, threats of imminent execution, beatings, drugging, and manipulation of diet.
Related articles:
UK protests will back lawyer arrested for speaking in defense of client jailed under Terrorism Act  
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