Dirty bomber wannabe Jose Padilla "immobilized by anxiety"
February 23, 2007
Al-Qaida suspect called 'immobilized by anxiety'
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS MIAMI — Jose Padilla, accused of being an al-Qaida operative, suffers from intense stress and anxiety stemming from his isolated years in military custody and cannot adequately help his lawyers prepare for trial, two defense mental experts testified Thursday. Defense lawyers hope to delve more deeply into Padilla's treatment at a Navy brig in Charleston, S.C., later in the federal hearing, when they are allowed to question brig officials directly involved in his custody. Those officials have never spoken publicly about the case, and the hearing will continue Monday. "He is immobilized by his anxiety," said Patricia Zapf, a forensic psychologist who administered tests on Padilla last October. "He believes he will go back to the brig and he will die there."
The hearing before U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke on Padilla's competency is crucial in deciding whether he and two co-defendants will stand trial in April. Padilla, a 36-year-old U.S. citizen, is charged with being part of a North American terror support cell that provided money, recruits and supplies to Islamic extremists around the world. All three have pleaded not guilty and face possible life imprisonment. The Bush administration initially claimed that Padilla was on an al-Qaida mission to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb" in a major U.S. city when he was arrested in May 2002 in Chicago He was designated an "enemy combatant" and imprisoned without criminal charges. But the dirty-bomb allegations are not part of the case. Padilla has claimed in court filings that he was tortured at the brig, which U.S. officials have denied. Prosecutors say he is competent for trial.