Two men were indicted in Florida yesterday for allegedly providing financial support and recruitment for al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, including helping "dirty bomb" suspect Jose Padilla attend terrorist training camps in Afghanistan, according to court records and law enforcement officials.
Adham Amin Hassoun and Mohamed Hesham Youssef were each charged with two counts of providing material support to terrorists as part of a grand jury indictment handed up in U.S. District Court in Miami. Hassoun, a Palestinian who has been in U.S. custody since June 2002, also faces eight previously filed charges, including unlawful possession of a firearm and perjury. Youssef is serving a sentence in Egypt on other terrorism charges.
Attorney General John D. Ashcroft said in a news conference in Washington that while "enjoying all the freedoms that our society has to offer," Hassoun was "secretly plotting to support murder and terror by violent jihadists overseas."
The indictment alleges that Hassoun and Youssef helped recruit volunteers and provide money to terrorist groups fighting in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Kosovo and Somalia.
Among the allegations highlighted by Ashcroft was a telephone conversation between Hassoun and Youssef in September 2000 in which they discussed aiding a U.S. citizen attempting to reach a terrorist training camp. Several U.S. law enforcement officials, who declined to be identified because of grand jury secrecy rules, said that citizen was Padilla, who is being held by the U.S. military as an enemy combatant.
A convert to Islam and former Chicago gang member, Padilla was arrested on suspicion of planning to set off a radiological "dirty bomb" in the United States, but authorities have said more recently that he was focused on a plot to blow up U.S. apartment buildings with natural gas. From September to October 2000, he allegedly attended the al Farouq training camp run by Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.
Law enforcement authorities have said the Bush administration is still debating the fate of Padilla. His attorney, Donna R. Newman, said yesterday that she does not know if her client will face criminal charges and said she was unaware that he is alluded to in Hassoun's indictment.
"They haven't informed us of anything, and it's unlikely they will inform us," said Newman, who has complained about the extraordinary secrecy surrounding the case. "All we hear is rumors."
Justice Department prosecutors are negotiating an agreement for the release of another alleged enemy combatant, Yaser Esam Hamdi. Prosecutors told a judge last month that Hamdi's release was imminent, but officials said this week a final agreement has not yet been signed by both sides.
The indictment announced yesterday identifies more than two dozen checks, totaling $53,000, that were written by Hassoun from 1994 to 2001 and were allegedly aimed at supporting terrorist activities and groups. Many of the checks were written to charities such as the Holy Land Foundation and the Global Relief Foundation, which have been targets of U.S. counterterrorism investigations or prosecutions.
The charges also recount detailed conversations, apparently recorded through wiretaps, between Hassoun and Youssef in which they allegedly discuss jihad, primarily through code words. For example, in 1996 Youssef allegedly told Hassoun that he was "ready for trade immediately."
Hassoun allegedly responded that "there is now trade in Somalia" and urged Youssef to "get yourself ready to go down there and see." Hassoun added that "there is jihad" in Somalia, the indictment says.