Padilla Jury Sees Bin Laden Denounce U.S. In Video; Hears Co-Defendants Praise Interview

Tuesday, June 26th 2007, 5:19 pm
By: News On 6

MIAMI (AP) _ Jurors in the Jose Padilla terrorism support case saw video Tuesday of Osama bin Laden denouncing the United States as ``tyrannical'' and heard FBI wiretap intercepts in which Padilla's two co-defendants said positive things about the al-Qaida leader.

``May Allah protect him,'' defendant Adham Amin Hassoun says in one telephone call intercepted shortly after an interview with bin Laden interview aired on CNN in May 1997. Hassoun also noted that bin Laden was becoming a problem for then-President Bill Clinton.

``Don't you know who is Osama bin Laden? He doesn't let the dog in the White House sleep at night,'' Hassoun tells a friend.

``The interview is quite powerful,'' adds defendant Kifah Wael Jayyousi in another call played for jurors.

Prosecutors are attempting to show that Hassoun and Jayyousi shared bin Laden's view that armed struggle, or jihad, was the only way Muslims could combat oppression around the world and create fundamentalist Islamic governments.

The explosive nature of the seven-minute interview led U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke to remind the jury that the trial isn't connected to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and that there is no evidence that Padilla himself ever saw the interview.

Defense attorneys unsuccessfully tried last week to prevent the video from being played because of fears bin Laden's image alone might sway jurors to return guilty verdicts against the men. They also complained that the tape is irrelevant because the defendants aren't charged with acts against the United States, which is the chief subject of bin Laden's diatribe.

The three are on trial for allegedly taking part in a North American support cell providing financing, equipment and recruits for Islamic extremists around the world. Padilla, a Muslim convert and U.S. citizen, is accused of filling out an application in 2000 to attend an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan.

Padilla, 36, was held as an enemy combatant for 3 1/2 years after his 2002 arrest on suspicion of plotting to detonate a radioactive ``dirty bomb'' inside the U.S., but those charges are not part of the Miami trial.

Bin Laden denounces the U.S. for supporting Israel, its military presence in Saudi Arabia and for prosecuting Omar Abdel-Rahman, the blind sheikh who is serving a life sentence in federal prison for plotting in the 1990s to blow up New York landmarks and assassinate the Egyptian president.

``He represents the kind of injustice that is adopted by the U.S. A baseless case was fabricated against him even though he is a blind old man,'' bin Laden says.

Abdel-Rahman's case was a favorite cause for Jayyousi, who frequently devoted space to it in the ``Islam Report'' newsletter he published at the time. On one of the FBI intercepts, Jayyousi mentions that bin Laden discussed Abdel-Rahman and that Egypt's government is concerned about Egyptian supporters of the blind sheikh.

``For Egypt, the subject of the sheikh is the most dangerous subject,'' Jayyousi says in the 1997 telephone call.

Jayyousi also suggests in one phone call that there are leaders willing to step up if something should happen to bin Laden, who today remains one of the world's most hunted men.

Prosecutors also played a 1994 telephone call in which Jayyousi, who headed a purportedly charitable group called American Worldwide Relief, mentions that he is ``in contact'' with radical groups inside Egypt that have been blamed for numerous acts of violence.

Jayyousi also received a fax in 1994 that was signed by bin Laden announcing that an organization known as the Advice and Reformation Committee was setting up what amounted to an al-Qaida public relations office in London, according to a terrorism expert testifying for the prosecution.

``It was sent to a specific group of people, people who were supporting the jihad movement,'' said Rohan Gunaratna, a scholar with the International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research in Singapore.

The trial, now in its seventh week, is expected to last into August. All three defendants face life in prison if convicted on conspiracy and terrorism material support charges.