MIAMI (AP) _ Jose Padilla was never overheard using purported code words for violent jihad in intercepted telephone conversations and spoke often about his difficulties learning Arabic while studying in Egypt, the lead FBI agent in the case testified Tuesday.
A defense attorney questioned FBI Agent James T. Kavanaugh about seven intercepted telephone calls on which Padilla's voice is heard mostly talking about his marriage and his studies but never about Islamic extremism.
Padilla left Broward County, Fla., in September 1998 for Egypt to begin what prosecutors say was a journey to fight in Islamic holy war. His alleged jihad recruiter was Adham Amin Hassoun, a former computer programmer who is on trial with Padilla and Kifah Wael Jayyousi on charges of supporting terrorist groups around the world.
Padilla, a 36-year-old U.S. citizen and Muslim convert, was added to the terrorism support case after 3 1/2 years in military custody as an enemy combatant. He was arrested in 2002 on suspicion of plotting with al-Qaida to detonate a radioactive ``dirty bomb'' inside the U.S., but those allegations are not part of the Miami trial.
In one February 1999 conversation, Padilla tells codefendant Hassoun that he is learning Arabic ``better than before'' and hopes to be accepted into Cairo's prestigious Al-Azhar University to continue his studies.
``It's gonna be hard work,'' Padilla says. ``The Arabic language ... hard, very hard.''
Later that year, Padilla tells Hassoun about his recent marriage to an Egyptian girl and what his priorities are for the future.
``First, I have to get settled with my marriage. Then I'm going to continue with my studies and after that ... whatever Allah the Almighty has open for us,'' Padilla says.
Defense attorney, Michael Caruso, asked Kavanaugh whether Padilla ever was heard using what prosecutors say were code words for violent jihad, such as ``picnic,'' ``smelling fresh air'' or ``eating cheese.''
``No, he does not,'' Kavanaugh replied.
Prosecutors say Padilla eventually left Egypt for Afghanistan, where in 2000 he filled out an application that bears his fingerprints for an al-Qaida training camp. Caruso asked Kavanaugh if Padilla was ever overheard discussing jihad training.
``No jihad training that I've seen,'' Kavanaugh said.
Caruso's questioning was concentrated on areas in the FBI intercepts that appear to show an alternative and innocent explanation for Padilla's travels in the Middle East. Padilla's lawyers say he wanted to become an Islamic imam and sought to learn Arabic because it is the original language of the Quran.
Another alleged Hassoun recruit, Mohamed Hesham Youssef, tells Hassoun in one call that Padilla is having trouble adjusting to life in Egypt and to speaking Arabic.
``Basically, he is a slow learner. I mean, he is a slow learner,'' says Youssef, who was also charged in the Miami case but is in custody in Egypt and not part of the trial.
``He's not referring to anything here but studying Arabic, correct? Study means study, right?'' Caruso asked.
``That's what they're talking about,'' Kavanaugh testified.
Jurors were scheduled to get the day off Wednesday, with Kavanaugh likely to wrap up his testimony later this week. Prosecutors say they will likely complete their phase of the case by early July, with the trial expected to last into August.