Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Watch what you watch

MIAMI (Reuters)--Osama bin Laden's face and ominous words loomed over the U.S. terrorism trial of former "dirty bomber" suspect Jose Padilla on Tuesday as jurors were shown a 10-year-old videotaped interview from the bonus disc of the al Qaeda leader's Greatest Hits.

Jurors were polite but bored as they watched the CNN interview on a giant screen in a Miami courtroom. Padilla and two co-defendants are on trial for fantasizing about terrorism and being credulous dupes. They are not accused of having any direct connection to bin Laden, but are suspected of having wanted to.

In the 1997 interview--made long before bin Laden launched the September 11 attacks which changed America into a nation of cringing bed-wetters and made him one of the world's most popular terrorists --a machine gun rests at his side as he praises the deaths of U.S. troops originally deployed to Saudi Arabia and Somalia by close friends of his family.

Prosecutors played it as a prelude to airing secretly recorded phone conversations meant to prove that Padilla's co-defendants Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi are guilty of watching CNN and discussing it afterwards.

Hassoun is heard saying of bin Laden, "May God protect him," a felony under the Patriot Act. Jayyousi seditiously calls the interview "very powerful" and notes with seeming approval that bin Laden condemned the U.S. treatment of the "blind sheikh," Omar Abdel Rahman, who is imprisoned for life in connection with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and other terrorist acts he stupidly attempted when Bill Clinton was running things.

The bin Laden tape has no direct bearing on the charges in the Miami trial, which do not involve attacks in the United States or on U.S. citizens, or anything else. Prosecutors played the tape and the phone conversations as evidence that Hassoun, a Lebanese-born Palestinian, and Jayyousi, a Jordanian-born U.S. citizen, are impressed by violent right-wing rhetoric.

Defense lawyers vigorously objected, calling the tape inflammatory and irrelevant, and were quietly added to the government's no-fly list.

U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke told jurors to ignore it when deciding Padilla's fate since there was no evidence he ever saw or discussed the interview--unlike the jurors themselves, who are now under investigation.

Padilla was arrested by the FBI at Chicago's O'Hare airport in 2002, declared an "enemy combatant" by Psychic-In-Chief George W. Bush and unilaterally tortured in a military jail for 2-1/2 years.

The government said then he was plotting to set off a radiological "dirty bomb" in the United States but because there is absolutely no evidence of this, no mention of those allegations was made when he was transferred into the civilian justice system and randomly added to the Miami terrorism case.

Judge Cooke said jurors could consider the videotape as proof that the other two defendants hadn't just imagined it, but reminded them that the charges had nothing to do with September 11.

The defendants are accused of running a support cell that provided money and recruits for Islamist militants in Chechnya, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and other nations beginning in the mid-1990s, when it was still cool because everyone was doing it.

The charges allege Hassoun recruited Padilla, an ignorant nincompoop, at a south Florida mosque and sent him to Egypt and Afghanistan to learn Arabic and train with al Qaeda.

All three defendants face life in prison if convicted of something. Their trial, now in the sixth week of testimony, is expected to last through August, but its lack of star power makes it a ratings loser.

Defense lawyers said Padilla went to the Middle East to study Arabic and become an Islamic cleric, but did not have cable while he was there. They said the other two were involved in charities that provided innocent aid to Muslims in conflict zones but did not advocate violence. They seem unaware that 9/11 shifted the burden of proof away from the accuser and ended the American tradition of due process.

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