By Peter Whoriskey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
MIAMI, Feb. 27 -- During his 3 1/2 -year detention as an "enemy combatant," accused al-Qaeda operative Jose Padilla was at various times deprived of a clock, windows and a Koran, and forced to sleep on a metal bed frame without a mattress, according to testimony Tuesday from an official at the Navy brig where he was held in Charleston, S.C.
The account of Sanford E. Seymour, the brig's technical director, was narrow in scope and offered only a glimpse of Padilla's incarceration, which Padilla and his attorneys have said included torture that renders him psychologically unfit to stand trial.
Limited by a court ruling to what he had discussed with a psychologist evaluating Padilla's competence for trial, Seymour's testimony was sketchy but ran contrary to some of Padilla's most serious allegations.
"I told him I knew of no physical abuse," Seymour testified.
Seymour's testimony marked the first time any official from the brig had publicly described conditions of Padilla's incarceration.
While Padilla has asserted that he was injected with LSD or a truth serum, Seymour indicated it may have been a flu shot, and while Padilla said he was subject to noxious odors that made his eyes and nose run, Seymour said a nearby paper mill sometimes makes the brig stink.
U.S. District Judge Marcia G. Cooke is expected now to decide whether Padilla is competent to stand trial, as prosecutors assert, or whether, as the defense contends, he is incompetent to stand trial because torture and isolation at the brig have rendered him unable to recall basic details about the case for his attorneys.
Padilla is not expected to take the stand in the competency hearing. At times he has seemed engrossed in the proceedings and engaged in apparently earnest conversations with his attorneys. But during the hour-long appearance of the brig officials, Padilla sat rigidly and did not look up.
A forensic psychiatrist and a forensic psychologist hired by the defense last week testified that when asked for information about the brig or the subjects he may have been interrogated about there, Padilla gets tense, exhibits facial tics and "shuts down."
"He would say, 'Please, please, please don't make me do this,' in a very plaintive manner," Angela Hegarty, the forensic psychiatrist, testified.
One of the lawyers, Andrew Patel, testified that even "softball" questions about the case could elicit pop-eyed revulsion from his client, and that he has been unwilling even to listen to the taped conversations at the core of the case against him.
"We tried everything we could imagine" to get him to help them review the evidence, but Padilla refused, Patel testified.
The window in Padilla's cell to the outside was painted over, Seymour testified, and another window to the interior was covered up in a way that allowed others to look in when they wanted. He was fed through a slot in the door.
Brig workers who interacted with him covered their name tags when dealing with Padilla, Seymour testified, and at various times his clock and Koran were taken away.
While defense lawyers have argued that the isolation and other aspects of his treatment have made Padilla unable to help his attorneys, a brig psychologist who talked to Padilla at the beginning of his detention in June 2002 and then again nearly two years later, noted "no remarkable changes" in his demeanor.
"He was responsive to me," said Craig S. Noble, a brig psychologist, who spoke with Padilla through openings the cell door. "He smiled."