Prosecutors rested their case Friday after nine weeks, 22 witnesses and dozens of FBI wiretap intercepts played at trial, most of them in Arabic with written translations for jurors. Defense lawyers for Padilla and his two co-defendants begin presenting their case next week. . . .
Padilla's voice was heard on only seven intercepts, a tiny fraction of the 300,000 collected by the FBI during the nearly decade-long investigation.
Padilla was never linked to any specific acts of terrorism or murder and, unlike his co-defendants, he was not accused of using purported code words like "tourism" for "jihad" or "eggplant" for "rocket-propelled grenade." . . .
The key to the case against Padilla . . . is how much weight jurors give to the five-page "mujahedeen data form" he allegedly filled out in July 2000 to attend an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan. Seven of Padilla's fingerprints are on the form, which was recovered by the CIA in Afghanistan in December 2001. . . .
The form also serves to link Padilla co-defendants Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi, both 45, to al-Qaida. Most of the other evidence and wiretap intercepts concern actions Hassoun and Jayyousi supposedly took to benefit Islamic extremists in global hotspots such as Chechnya, Somalia, Kosovo and Lebanon.
There's little evidence linking any of the three to specific acts of violence but there are ties to groups involved in Islamic jihad. For example, an associate of Jayyousi's was killed in fighting in Chechnya in 1995 and Jayyousi once got a fax signed by al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. . . .
The three face life in prison if convicted on all charges, which include providing material support to terrorists and conspiracy to murder, kidnap and maim people overseas.
The defense says its case will focus on expert witnesses who can provide an alternate view of history, Islamic principles and global politics for the jury. The trial is scheduled to continue into August. . . .
Padilla's attorneys have said he went to Egypt in 1998 to study Islam more intently and hoped to become an imam. Merely traveling to places like Pakistan, they say, isn't proof of ties to terrorism.
Keep in mind that in July 2000, al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden were names known only to national security specialists, the United States was not contemplating military involvement in Afghanistan which was embroiled in a civil war that had almost been won by the Taliban, and Bill Clinton was President.
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