Prosecutors say Padilla is competent to stand trial on terrorism charges

Friday, February 9th 2007, 10:34 pm
By: News On 6

MIAMI (AP) _ An evaluation of suspected al-Qaida operative Jose Padilla has found him competent to stand trial on terrorism charges, government attorneys said in court documents filed Friday.

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons' evaluation was not made public, but if the prosecution's description is accurate and U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke agrees, it removes another major obstacle to Padilla going on trial in April.

Padilla can understand the court proceedings and communicate with his attorneys, according to prosecutors' description of the report's conclusions. ``The BOP report is thorough, detailed and unequivocal in its conclusion that Padilla is competent,'' the government said in its filing.

Three attorneys for Padilla did not respond to after-hours phone calls and e-mails Friday. A fourth, Andrew Patel, said he could not comment on the case.

A competency hearing is set for next Friday.

Padilla, a 36-year-old U.S. citizen and former Chicago gang member, claims he was tortured in custody, and his lawyers say he is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder that raises questions about his competence for trial, allegations that federal officials deny.

President Bush designated him an enemy combatant, and Padilla was held without criminal charges at a Navy brig for more than three years. Padilla is charged with being part of a North American cell that provided cash, supplies and recruits to Islamic extremists.