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Jose Padilla’s Attorney Calls Guilty Verdict “Huge Tragedy,” Vows Appeal

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Jose Padilla has been convicted in one of the most closely watched trials since the Sept. 11 attacks. On Thursday, a Miami jury found Padilla and two co-defendants guilty of conspiracy to commit murder in Bosnia, Kosovo and Chechnya and providing material support toward that goal. Padilla was initially declared an “enemy combatant” for allegedly plotting to set off a radioactive dirty bomb inside the United States. He was stripped of all rights, transferred to a Navy brig in South Carolina and held in extreme isolation for 43 months. The Bush administration denied him access to an attorney for two years. Faced with a Supreme Court challenge, President Bush announced criminal charges against Padilla unrelated to the dirty bomb plot. Defense attorneys and experts say his isolation and interrogation has led to severe psychological effects. We speak with Padilla attorney Andrew Patel, who calls the verdict “a huge tragedy” and vows an appeal. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: A jury in Miami convicted Jose Padilla on Thursday in one of the most closely watched trials since the September 11 attacks. The jury of seven women and five men found Padilla and his two co-defendants guilty of conspiracy to commit murder in Bosnia, Kosovo and Chechnya and providing material support toward that goal. The three men will be sentenced on December 5.

Padilla originally made international headlines in 2002 when President Bush declared him an enemy combatant for allegedly planning to set off a dirty bomb inside the United States. Padilla was stripped of all rights, transferred to a Navy brig in South Carolina, where he was held in extreme isolation for three-and-a-half years. Even though Padilla was a U.S. citizen, the Bush administration denied him access to an attorney for two years.

Faced with a Supreme Court challenge, President Bush announced criminal charges against Padilla unrelated to the alleged dirty bomb plot. After 43 months of extreme isolation, Jose Padilla was transferred from the South Carolina brig to a civilian prison. Padilla’s attorneys argued he was unfit to stand trial because of the effects of torture.

We’ll now go to that clip of forensic psychiatrist Angela Hegarty, who examined Padilla last year and concluded that the extreme isolation and torture had left Padilla essentially brain-damaged. I interviewed her on Democracy Now! yesterday in her first broadcast interview.

DR. ANGELA HEGARTY: What happened at the brig was essentially the destruction of a human being’s mind. That’s what happened at the brig. His personality was deconstructed and reformed.

AMY GOODMAN: But the judge allowed the trial to go forward. One of Jose Padilla’s attorneys, Andrew Patel, joins us on the phone right now from Miami, Florida. We welcome you to Democracy Now!

ANDREW PATEL: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Your response to the verdict, Andrew Patel?

ANDREW PATEL: You have to excuse me. It’s hard to summarize what, to me, is a human tragedy in a sentence or two. We were very sad, very disappointed, and had been hoping for a different verdict. We had been hoping that Jose would be home with his family today.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what happened in the trial and what you believe led to this verdict?

ANDREW PATEL: What happened in this trial, I think you have to put it in the context of federal conspiracy law, where the government doesn’t have to prove that something happened, but just that people agree that something should happen in the future. In this case, it was even more strained. The crime charged in this case was actually an agreement to agree to do something in the future. So when you’re dealing with a charge like that, you’re not going to have — or the government’s not going to be required to produce the kind of evidence that you would expect in a normal criminal case, which is a — we sometimes describe it as a “whodunnit.” This is a more of a who done what or who thought or agreed to do what, where, and —- you know, the government introduced no evidence as to victims of this so-called—-

AMY GOODMAN: Andrew Patel, can you talk about the wiretaps? How many wiretapped conversations introduced into the trial? Was it something like 300,000?

ANDREW PATEL: Well, there were 300,000 intercepts over a period of approximately 10 years. Of those, approximately 14,000 were considered to be, quote, “pertinent.” The government introduced about just under 130 conversations or parts of 130 conversations. Now, of that 300,000, Jose’s voice is heard on seven. And there are an additional dozen or so conversations in which other people are talking about him. So in a massive electronic surveillance involving home phones being intercepted, cellphones being intercepted, fax machines being intercepted, bugs in people’s homes, we have a grand total of 21 calls that have anything to do with Jose, out of a grand total of 300,000 interceptions. Your audience can do the math. The result is, you know, just barely a pin drop in this tidal wave of sound that was recorded.

AMY GOODMAN: Andrew Patel, the other men, the co-defendants of Jose Padilla, Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi, did you try to separate them? And what did it mean that they were tried together? Most of these conversations, of course, involved them, and not Jose Padilla.


AMY GOODMAN: And talk about the significance of their trial together.

ANDREW PATEL: Well, it made things very difficult for us, because there was a tremendous amount of testimony or evidence that the jury heard. For example, the government introduced at the trial a portion of the CNN interview with Osama bin Laden. And the jury was instructed that they could not consider that as to Mr. Padilla. But, you know, what a jury is told, we always presume that they’ll follow the instructions, but that is a very powerful piece of prejudicial evidence, that if Mr. Padilla were tried by himself, the jury would not have heard.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you plan to appeal?

ANDREW PATEL: Of course.

AMY GOODMAN: Where does Jose Padilla go now? When we were speaking yesterday with Angela Hegarty, the forensic psychiatrist who interviewed him for some 22 hours, she said that his terror was returning to the brig.

ANDREW PATEL: It is, and she’s right. There’s a — Mr. Padilla will stay in the federal detention facility in Miami until his sentencing. He will — and this is just my — shall we call it an educated guess or expectation — will be sent to a federal maximum security facility. The irony of that is that he will have more social contact with other human beings in the federal maximum security facility than he did in the brig.

AMY GOODMAN: Everyone says the most damning evidence was this Mujahideen data form that was described as an application to an al-Qaeda training camp in northern Afghanistan.

ANDREW PATEL: That was the government’s — you know, when you actually look at this document and — it is clear that it was — there were two or three different kinds of inks. If you look at the handwriting on the first page and the last page, they don’t match. Even things like, in the United States we will write a date, you know, month, date, year, and in Europe and the Middle East they write date, month, year. There are actually two dates on this form: one on the first page, one on the last page. One is in the European style, one is in the American style. We referred to this document as a, quote, “questioned document,” unquote. The jury has spoken on that issue.

AMY GOODMAN: The Wall Street Journal saying the verdict may bolster proponents of broad warrantless electronic surveillance in the fight against terror, but could also vindicate those who back civilian courts and law enforcements for trying such suspects.

ANDREW PATEL: I think that the folks who are looking for an excuse to continue or, you know, initiate unlawful wiretaps, any excuse is a fine excuse. There is certainly nothing in this case that would validate that. The wiretaps in this case were all court-ordered.

AMY GOODMAN: What is Jose Padilla’s reaction?

ANDREW PATEL: I would vastly prefer that circumstances had permitted you to ask him of that question. And I think I’ll save it for — the answer for the day when he can answer that question for himself.

AMY GOODMAN: Is he able to process it?

ANDREW PATEL: I’m sorry?

AMY GOODMAN: Is he able to process the verdict? Does he understand it?

ANDREW PATEL: You spoke with Angela yesterday, Dr. Hegarty. Let me just say that nothing in the interim has happened to make him better. It’s our belief that he was not — that this trial should not have gone forward. That matter will be addressed before the court of appeals.

AMY GOODMAN: And will the issue of torture be raised, being abused over the years and the extreme isolation?

ANDREW PATEL: His competence and the way he was treated in the brig are completely interwoven.

AMY GOODMAN: The sentence he faces?

ANDREW PATEL: Maximum sentence on count one is life.

AMY GOODMAN: Andrew Patel, I want to thank you for being with us. Andrew Patel is speaking to us from Miami, where the jury handed in their verdict yesterday in the case of Jose Padilla, found guilty of conspiracy.

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