Officials Reveal Details About Terror Suspect's Stay, Say He Showed No Mental Problems

Tuesday, February 27th 2007, 4:00 pm

By: News On 6

MIAMI (AP) _ The exterior window in Jose Padilla's 80-square-foot cell in a Navy brig was painted over. At times, he had to sleep on a steel bunk with no mattress. He went months without a clock and was sometimes seen weeping in his cell.

But officials at the brig in Charleston, S.C., testified Tuesday that the alleged al-Qaida operative was not physically abused during his 3 1/2 years in military custody, nor did he display serious symptoms of mental problems.

Craig Noble, the brig's main psychologist, and Sanford Seymour, the brig's technical director, testified for the first time in public Tuesday in Padilla's competency hearings. The hearings are to determine whether Padilla can stand trial in April on terrorism-related charges.

Padilla, a 36-year-old U.S. citizen and Muslim convert, was arrested in 2002 in Chicago in what U.S. authorities initially claimed was a mission to set off a radioactive ``dirty bomb'' in a major city. He was held at the brig without being charged after President Bush declared him an enemy combatant.

Padilla was added to a Miami terrorism support case in late 2005. That indictment does not mention the ``dirty bomb'' plot.

Two mental experts hired by Padilla's lawyers say he cannot assist in his defense because he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, which they claim results from isolation and alleged torture at the brig. U.S. officials deny he was tortured.

Noble said he examined Padilla when he arrived June 10, 2002, and again on May 14, 2004. He said Padilla had begun wearing glasses, but he found the second visit ``unremarkable'' for any signs of problems.

The second interview was conducted at Padilla's cell door, with the prisoner speaking through a small slot, Noble said.

``He was responsive, made good eye contact, in fact smiled frequently,'' Noble said. ``There were no changes.''

Seymour described some of the cell conditions, including the painted-over window, lack of clock and periodic removal of Padilla's mattress and Quran. He also said he remembered two instances where he watched Padilla _ who was under 24-hour surveillance _ crying in his cell.

But Seymour also said that the brig staff allowed Padilla outside for recreation, when he sometimes shot baskets. He was allowed no contact with any other inmate.

``Sometimes he sat in the sun,'' Seymour said. ``If it was a nice day, we tried to get him out.''

Padilla has claimed his cell was often filled with noxious fumes and that brig staff injected him with LSD or some other hallucinogenic drug.

Seymour said the injection was a flu shot. And he testified that the odors come from a paper mill less than a mile away. ``We often had a nasty odor throughout the facility,'' he said.

U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke barred Padilla's lawyers from delving into the details of this testimony unless it was directly related to a competency report prepared by a Bureau of Prisons psychologist.

Cooke scheduled closing arguments on the competency issue for Wednesday. It was not clear when she would rule.

Padilla and co-defendants Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi face up to life in prison if convicted of charges they were part of a North American terror support cell that provided recruits, money and supplies to Islamic extremist groups.

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