'Osama' Mentioned In Wiretap Call Played In Trial Of Suspected Al-Qaida Operative Padilla - NewsOn6.com - Tulsa, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports - KOTV.com |

'Osama' Mentioned In Wiretap Call Played In Trial Of Suspected Al-Qaida Operative Padilla

MIAMI (AP) _ Jurors in Jose Padilla's trial heard intercepted phone calls Thursday in which Osama bin Laden is mentioned, as prosecutors tried to cement a link between the al-Qaida leader and the accused terrorist operative.

In a call on Sept. 3, 2000, co-defendant Adham Amin Hassoun asks Mohamed Hesham Youssef the whereabouts of Padilla, whom he identifies by an alias, Ibrahim.

``Ibrahim is a little farther south,'' Youssef tells Hassoun, according to an FBI translation from Arabic. ``He is supposed to be at Osama's and then he might be able to go from Osama's ... to go a little farther north.''

Prosecutors did not specify where they believed Padilla was at the time of that call. Youssef was indicted in the Miami case but is in custody in Egypt and not part of the trial.

Less than six weeks after the call, Hassoun reaches two unidentified men prosecutors say were staying at a guest house in the Republic of Georgia, where mujahadeen are suspected of waiting to enter Chechnya and engage in violent jihad.

``Do you know what happened with Abu Abdallah, the Puerto Rican?'' Hassoun asks about Padilla in that call, on Oct. 15, 2000.

An unidentified man responds: ``Abu Abdallah, who is Ibrahim, is in Afghanistan.''

Prosecutors say Padilla filled out a form to attend an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan that purportedly produced hundreds of potential terrorist operatives. Defense attorneys say the presence of Padilla's fingerprints only on the outside of the first and last pages suggests he was simply handed the form.

The defense unsuccessfully sought to prevent jurors from hearing conversations about bin Laden and other well-known Islamic extremist leaders, claiming it would make Padilla, Hassoun and the third defendant, Kifah Wael Jayyousi, appear more guilty.

The three defendants are accused of being a part of a North American support cell for Islamic extremists in Bosnia, Chechnya, Afghanistan and elsewhere. All have pleaded not guilty but face possible life sentences if convicted.

Prosecutors have been relying on FBI agent John T. Kavanaugh to interpret terminology used in the wiretaps they are playing for jurors. They completed their questioning of Kavanaugh on Thursday, and Ken Swartz, an attorney for Hassoun, began cross-examination, attempting to whittle away at the agent's credibility.

Swartz rejected Kavanaugh's description of the defendants' conversations as including code. And he noted the agent testified during an appearance before a grand jury that ``the code was laughable,'' attempting to make the point that if it was so easy to decipher it might not have been code at all.

Kavanaugh has offered definitions for words used on the wiretaps: tourism meant jihad, clubs indicated mujahadeen units, sports equipment was weaponry, and so on. But Swartz noted the agent does not speak Arabic and badgered him on the definitions he offered.

``I could tell you what it looks like to me,'' Kavanaugh said, ``but I can't tell you what was in his head.''

Padilla, 36, a former Chicago gang member and Muslim convert, has been in federal custody since his May 2002 arrest at O'Hare International Airport. He was held for 3 1/2 years at a Navy brig as an enemy combatant.

He was initially accused of plotting to detonate a radioactive ``dirty bomb'' inside the United States, but those allegations are not part of the Miami case.
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