Defense Cites Ambiguities in Evidence Against Padilla

By Peter Whoriskey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 19, 2007

MIAMI, May 18 -- Somewhere in Kandahar, Afghanistan, shortly after the U.S. invasion in the fall of 2001, a man driving a Toyota twin-cab pickup pulled up at a CIA post to deliver thousands of pages of documents.

Amid the notebooks and papers, authorities found a document that would become what may be the single most important piece of physical evidence against terrorism suspect Jose Padilla.

The five-page "Mujahideen Identification Form" -- basically a personnel application form -- was partially completed in Arabic by Padilla in July 2000 and is a key piece of evidence, prosecutors said.

"This piece of paper proves that Jose Padilla trained at one of the al-Qaeda camps," Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Frazier told jurors. "The fact that this form even exists proves that Padilla was there."

But after three days of prosecution testimony regarding the document, what exactly it proves about Padilla is unclear.

The form is filled out with Padilla's birth date and personal information that resembles his, but it is signed in Arabic by "Abu Abdallah Al-Muhajir," not "Jose Padilla."

The form is labeled "military administration" and "top secret," but nowhere does it mention al-Qaeda.

Friday, a government witness who was described by prosecutors as "critical" to their case -- a man who attended an al-Qaeda camp in 2001 -- seemed to raise as many questions about the form and the camp as he answered.

Yahya Goba, 30, of Lackawanna, N.Y., who is serving a 10-year prison sentence, testified that he filled out a similar form before attending the al-Farooq camp run by al-Qaeda. This was just as prosecutors had hoped because his statement linked the form to al-Qaeda.

But then he testified that, after completing the form with false information as he was instructed, he was given the explicit opportunity not to proceed to the training. A person who filled out the form, his testimony indicated, did not necessarily attend the camp.

Then Goba testified that he attended the camp not to commit terrorism but to get military training so that someday he could possibly defend Muslims under attack in Chechnya, Kosovo and Kashmir. That stated motivation is very similar to what Padilla's defense is asserting in his case.

"This was not a terrorist training camp, was it?" asked Michael Caruso, one of Padilla's attorneys.

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