Judge allows video in Padilla case
By CURT ANDERSON, Associated Press Writer 6/21/07
A federal judge agreed on Thursday to allow prosecutors to play an edited television interview of Osama bin Laden in the Jose Padilla terrorism support case, rejecting defense claims that images of the man blamed for the 2001 terror attacks would result in an unfair trial.
But U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke ordered that the 1997 CNN interview shown to jurors on Friday be edited from more than 20 minutes to about seven minutes, and that one of the most chilling and inflammatory segments be removed altogether.
In the portion to be dropped, reporter Peter Arnett asks bin Laden about his future plans. "You'll see them and hear about them in the media, God willing," bin Laden responds.
"That puts a shiver down your spine," said Padilla attorney Anthony Natale.
Lawyers for all three defendants fought to keep the tape out of evidence, in part because it would evoke memories for jurors of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. The trial is not about those attacks and the charges don't involve violence against the U.S. at home or abroad, they said.
But Cooke agreed with prosecutors, who said the video is relevant to the Padilla case because his two co-defendants — Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi — discussed the bin Laden interview in phone calls intercepted by the FBI. The references establish that the two men supported bin Laden's declarations that violence is necessary to achieve Islamic extremist goals, prosecutor John Shipley said.
"This is a video that the defendants themselves watched, taped, listened to and celebrated," Shipley said. "It goes directly to their state of mind."
There's no evidence that Padilla ever heard or saw the bin Laden interview, and Cooke said she would inform jurors of that before the video is played.
The three defendants are charged with being part of a North American support cell for violent Muslim causes around the world. The defense has argued that they were not backing terrorism but helping oppressed and persecuted Muslims in Bosnia, Chechnya, Somalia and other 1990s global hotspots.
Padilla, a 36-year-old U.S. citizen, was added to the case in late 2005 after spending 3 1/2 years in military custody as an enemy combatant. Padilla was initially accused in 2002 of plotting with al-Qaida to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb" inside the U.S., but those allegations are not part of the Miami trial.
The bin Laden interview took place about three years before prosecutors say Padilla filled out an application to attend an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan, which was bin Laden's base of operations.
Jurors will be shown powerful images of bin Laden speaking about the U.S. as "unjust, criminal and tyrannical" and labeling as "heroes" the perpetrators of Middle East bombings that killed American service personnel.
Much of the interview is a diatribe against the presence of U.S. soldiers in Saudi Arabia, the location of Islam's two holiest sites, and against the Saudi rulers for permitting it. Bin Laden also lauds Muslim mujahedeen fighters in Somalia who resisted U.S. troops.
If convicted, the three defendants could be sentenced to life in prison. The trial is nearing the end of its sixth week and is expected to last into August.