Defense In Padilla Case Chips Away At U.S. Terrorism Expert For Not Talking About His Work

Monday, July 2nd 2007, 5:01 pm
By: News On 6

MIAMI (AP) _ Defense lawyers for Jose Padilla chipped away Monday at the credibility of the government's expert witness, who said he could not disclose details about some of his work because of secrecy agreements with unnamed foreign governments.

Terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna's refusal to describe where he had conducted interviews with high-ranking al-Qaida figures drew protests from lawyers for Padilla and his two co-defendants, who contended they have a right to know the circumstances behind Gunaratna's conclusions.

``They're trying to have the sword and the shield here,'' said attorney Anthony Natale, who is defending Padilla against terrorism-support charges. ``It goes to attack the very credibility of what he is saying.''

The issue boiled over when Gunaratna was being questioned by Jeanne Baker, attorney for co-defendant Adham Amin Hassoun. Baker tried several times to ask Gunaratna, head of a Singapore-based terrorism research center, for details about his face-to-face interviews with purported terrorists for his 2002 book, ``Inside al-Qaida.''

``In some interviews I worked for governments,'' Gunaratna said. ``I do not wish to name these countries. I would be breaching some confidentiality and agreements I signed with governments.''

Lawyers for Padilla, Hassoun and third defendant Kifah Wael Jayyousi have previously suggested that some evidence came through use of torture on detainees. The clear implication of their protests regarding Gunaratna's refusal was that such tactics may have played a role in those interviews.

``We have to be able to challenge the conditions under which the ... statements were made,'' said Jayyousi attorney William Swor.

Prosecutors objected, saying that where Gunaratna conducted his al-Qaida interviews was irrelevant, and U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke agreed. But Cooke also suggested that there may be other ways of questioning Gunaratna about how these interviews were conducted.

The sometimes testy exchange came on the second day of defense cross-examination of Gunaratna, head of the International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research.

Gunaratna is the prosecution's star expert witness in the case alleging that Padilla, Hassoun and Jayyousi were part of a North American support cell providing money, equipment and recruits for Islamic extremists around the world.

Padilla, allegedly one of the cell's recruits, was held for 3 1/2 years as an enemy combatant after his 2002 arrest for supposedly plotting to blow up a radioactive ``dirty bomb'' inside the U.S., but those allegations are not part of the trial.

Later Monday, prosecutors repeatedly objected to Baker's questions, which they said violated a previous order from Cooke prohibiting the defendants from claiming that any illegal actions attributed to them were either justified or necessary under the circumstances.

A key defense contention is that some violence that is labeled terrorism by the U.S. was the result of a legitimate conflict between two armed groups.

Cooke sharply rebuked Baker for continuing to ask such questions, then sent the jury home early for the day. The judge even suggested that the questions might force her to separate one or more of the defendants from the trial.

``It is inappropriate. It is wrong for you to go into these areas,'' Cooke said. ``At some point in time, it has to end.''

Gunaratna said he is being paid $300 an hour by the U.S. government for his courtroom testimony, up to a maximum of $53,700.