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Padilla Could Be Charged In Miami

After a Supreme Court ruling that terror suspects cannot be held without charges, alleged dirty-bomb suspect José Padilla may be indicted in Miami.


June 30, 2004
Copyright © 2004 THE MIAMI HERALD. All rights reserved.

Federal prosecutors in Miami are weighing whether to indict José Padilla -- a former Broward County resident dubbed the dirty-bomb suspect -- for allegedly providing financial aid to a terrorist group run by an Egyptian convicted of plotting to blow up New York City landmarks, two law enforcement sources said Tuesday.

Investigators are looking at Padilla's links to Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind sheik convicted in 1995 and serving a life sentence for conspiring to blow up the United Nations, FBI headquarters in New York and two tunnels and a bridge linking New Jersey to Manhattan, the sources said.

Padilla, a U.S. citizen detained as an enemy combatant by the government without charges for two years, is challenging his incarceration since the FBI grabbed him in Chicago after he returned from Pakistan in 2002. The U.S. held him as a material witness, suspecting he's part of a radioactive, or ''dirty,'' bomb plot.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Padilla mistakenly appealed his detention in a New York federal court and must pursue it in South Carolina, where he is being held in a naval brig.

A majority of the justices, though not directly addressing Padilla's petition, ruled that the Bush administration went too far in locking up terrorist suspects and denying them access to U.S. courts in two related cases.

The law enforcement sources said prosecutors could seek an indictment of Padilla before a court decides whether he should remain in custody without being charged.

The U.S. attorney's office declined to comment on the case, first reported by The Daily Business Review.

His New York attorney, Donna Newman, said she was unaware of a potential indictment against Padilla, 33, of Puerto Rican descent. He once worked with Muslim friends at a Taco Bell in Davie.

''Throughout this case, they have not communicated with counsel,'' Newman said, adding that she plans to move quickly to challenge Padilla's detention.

Before the Supreme Court's decision, the Justice Department declassified a seven-page summary of Padilla's alleged al Qaeda activities, including meetings with several of the terror group's senior leaders. The summary also said he admitted plans to use natural-gas systems to blow up high-rises in the U.S., including in Florida.

Deputy Attorney General James Comey said he hoped the information would answer public concerns about Padilla's lengthy detention.


In South Florida, investigators are poring over classified evidence that might financially link Padilla not only to Abdel, the Egyptian sheik, but also to Palestinian Adham Amin Hassoun, a computer programmer formerly of Sunrise.

This year, Hassoun has been indicted twice in Miami on gun possession, perjury and obstruction of justice charges in an alleged attempt to promote ''global jihad,'' or holy war.

Hassoun moved to Florida in 1989 and met Padilla about three years later, when they attended South Florida mosques together.

Padilla found his way to South Florida in 1990 and lived at various times in Lauderhill, Sunrise, Davie and near Plantation. He left South Florida in 1998, traveling to Egypt.

Hassoun's former attorney said his client befriended Padilla when they attended the Masjid Al-Imam mosque in Fort Lauderdale during much of the 1990s, and that Hassoun even gave Padilla several hundred dollars once as ``an act of charity.''

Hassoun once served as North American distributor for Call of Islam magazine, a publication that advocates jihad, or holy war. He also helped launch Benevolence International Foundation, a Chicago-area charity accused by the Bush administration of funding terrorists.

Hassoun had several telephone contacts with Padilla in the months before Padilla's return to the United States, according to federal sources.

Padilla, also known as Abdullah al Muhajir, spoke with Hassoun before his May 8 arrival at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, where he was arrested. Padilla was carrying $10,000, agents said.


Authorities believe the connections between Padilla and Hassoun bolster FBI suspicions of a broader network of terrorist operatives still working in the U.S.

Investigators have had Hassoun under surveillance for months because of his ties to several Islamic charities and extremist groups suspected of supporting terrorism.

Hassoun's attorney, Fred Haddad, said his client has done nothing wrong. Haddad declined further comment because he agreed with prosecutors not to discuss classified intelligence being used in the probe of Hassoun, Padilla and other alleged conspirators.

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