'Dirty Bomb Suspect' Arrives In Miami
Jose Padilla Will Faces Charges In Civilian Court
UPDATED: 6:16 pm EST January 5, 2006
MIAMI -- The man referred to as the "dirty bomb suspect" has been transferred from military to civilian custody and he is now in Miami.
Jose Padilla, the alleged al-Qaida supporter, will face charges that he was part of a U.S. terror cell that recruited fighters and raised money for global Islamic holy war.
Padilla was transferred from a military brig in South Carolina and will be held at the federal detention center in downtown Miami.
Just before 5 p.m. Thursday, he was flown to Watson Island on board a police helicopter, where he was tranferred to a heavily armed entourage of police vehicles for the trip to the courthouse.
Padilla made his first appearance in federal court at 5:30 p.m., his first time before a judge since his arrest 3 1/2 years ago.
At the brief hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Garber explained Padilla's rights as a criminal defendant and asked if he understood those rights.
"Yes, I do," said Padilla, who was dressed in a bright orange prison jumpsuit and was shackled at the wrists and ankles. He wore glasses and had a short haircut.
Garber set a Friday afternoon hearing for Padilla to enter a plea and to determine if he will remain in custody or be released on bail. Prosecutors said they would seek pretrial detention.
Padilla, a former Chicago gang member, has been held by the Bush administration without criminal charges since his arrest in late 2001 on suspicion of a plot to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb" inside the United States.
According to a Justice Department document, top al-Qaida officials "wanted Padilla to hit targets in New York City, although Florida and Washington, D.C. were discussed as well."
The charges brought in an indictment unsealed in November do not involve those allegations, contending instead that Padilla joined a North American terror support network that sent him overseas to train with al-Qaida and to "murder, maim and kidnap" people on foreign soil.
Padilla's long detention by the Bush administration has spawned multiple court rulings over the scope of presidential power in the war on terror. The U.S. Supreme Court has been asked to use Padilla's case to define that power over U.S. citizens who are detained on American soil.
The transfer of Padilla from military to civilian custody was approved Wednesday by the Supreme Court, which overruled a previous ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The lower court had refused to allow the transfer in a decision sharply critical of the Bush administration for using different sets of facts to hold Padilla as an enemy combatant and then obtain a grand jury indictment on criminal charges.
Padilla is accused of being one of the recruits of two co-defendants in the Miami case: Kifah Wael Jayyousi, a Jordanian who became a U.S. citizen in 1987, and Lebanese-born Palestinian Adhan Amin Hassoun.
They are charged with raising money and recruiting operatives for violent Islamic causes in Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya, Algeria, Kashmir and elsewhere. Much of the government's case is based on some 50,000 wiretaps that date back a decade.
Hassoun was indicted on eight additional charges, including perjury, obstruction of justice and illegal firearm possession.
Padilla Has South Florida Connection
Hassoun, a Palestinian computer programmer who moved to Sunrise in 1989, was arrested in June 2002 on suspicion of overstaying his student visa. Prosecutors previously described him as a former associate of Padilla.
Hassoun allegedly raised money on the Internet for a radical group that opposed Israel. He reportedly met Padilla at a mosque in Pembroke Pines in the early 1990s after Padilla was released from prison for shooting a motorist.
Hassoun is believed to have mentored Padilla while he studied Islam and worked at a Taco Bell in Davie.
Padilla was once listed on the lease of the apartment in Plantation that he apparently shared with his mother after he and his half-brother moved to South Florida from Chicago in 1989.