Images show Padilla in chains; lawyers claim harsh treatment

Monday, December 4th 2006, 2:23 pm
By: News On 6

MIAMI (AP) Photographs of alleged al-Qaida operative Jose Padilla wearing chains, noise-blocking headphones and blacked-out goggles have been seized on by his lawyers as evidence he was subjected to harsh treatment while in military custody as an enemy combatant.

The still video images were filed late Friday in federal court in Miami as part of an effort by his lawyers to get terrorism-related charges against Padilla thrown out because of ``outrageous government conduct'' during the 3 1/2 years he was jailed without charges.

``The extended torture visited upon Mr. Padilla has left him damaged, both mentally and physically,'' Padilla lawyer Orlando do Campo said in court papers. ``The government's treatment of Mr. Padilla has robbed him of his personhood.''

The images, taken from an unclassified Pentagon video, show Padilla chained hand and foot, wearing headphones and goggles, and being led out of his cell by guards dressed in camouflage and wearing riot helmets and visors. The images are the first publicly released photos of his detention at a Navy brig in Charleston, S.C.

The existence of the video was first reported Monday by The New York Times, which published two photos. One of Padilla's lawyers, Andrew Patel, said he was prevented by court rules from releasing a copy of the video or allowing a reporter to view it.

Patel did verify, however, the Times' account that one guard on the video states that Padilla is being led from his cell to undergo dental work.

Federal prosecutors and Pentagon officials have repeatedly denied Padilla was tortured. In court papers, they said that he was humanely treated and that the tactics used were for ``safety and security'' reasons.

``If they pose a threat to the individuals charged with transporting them, clearly appropriate measures must be taken to protect the guards and any other personnel involved,'' a Pentagon spokesman, Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, said Monday.

A spokeswoman for R. Alexander Acosta, the U.S. attorney in Miami, had no comment Monday.

Padilla, a 36-year-old U.S. citizen and former Chicago gang member, was declared an enemy combatant by President Bush in June 2002 after he was arrested upon arrival at Chicago's O'Hare Airport. U.S. authorities said he was on an al-Qaida mission to detonate a radioactive ``dirty bomb'' in a U.S. city.

Amid an intense legal battle over the president's wartime detention powers, Padilla was transferred to civilian custody earlier this year to face federal charges of supporting terrorism. Those charges do not not mention the ``dirty bomb'' allegations. Padilla's trial is set for January 22nd.

In court papers, Padilla claimed that he was forced to stand in painful stress positions, given LSD or some other drug as a ``truth serum,'' subjected to loud noises and noxious odors, and forced to endure sleep deprivation, extreme heat and cold, and harsh lights.

The papers include an affidavit from Dr. Angela Hegarty, a New York psychiatrist who met with Padilla for 22 hours over several days this year. Hegarty said that Padilla appears to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and is unable to adequately help prepare his defense.

``When approached by his attorneys, he begs them 'please, please, please' not to have to discuss his case,'' Hegarty wrote. ``He refuses to watch the videos of his interrogation and he refuses to answer questions pertaining to aspects of the evidence in his case.''

Patel said in court papers that his client fears being returned to the brig if he discusses what happened there and that ``he often exhibits facial tics, unusual eye movements and contortions of his body'' when the subject of his detention comes up.

``Mr. Padilla remains unsure if I and the other other attorneys working on his case are actually his attorney or another component of the government's interrogation scheme,'' said Patel, who has represented Padilla for four years.