'Dirty bomb' suspect indicted by US grand jury

“Dirty bomb” suspect Jose Padilla, a United States citizen held without charges for more than three years, faces charges of conspiring to “murder, kidnap and maim persons” overseas, under an indictment unsealed on Tuesday.

A grand jury in Miami returned the indictment against Padilla and four others. While the charges allege Padilla was part of a terrorism conspiracy, they do not include previous allegations that he planned to carry out attacks in the US.

Padilla, a US-born Muslim convert, has been held as an “enemy combatant” in Defence Department custody for more than three years.

The administration of President George Bush had resisted calls to try him in civilian courts.

The indictment avoids a showdown before the US Supreme Court, the nation’s highest court. Padilla’s lawyers had asked justices to review his case last month, and the Bush administration was facing a deadline next Monday for filing its legal arguments.

“They’re avoiding what the Supreme Court would say about American citizens.
That’s an issue the administration did not want to face,” said Scott Silliman, a Duke University law professor who specialises in national security.

Although the Justice Department has said that Padilla was readying attacks in the US, the charges against him and four others allege they were part of a conspiracy to murder, kidnap and maim persons in a foreign country and provide material support to terrorists abroad.

The others indicted are Adham Amin Hassoun, a Lebanese-born Palestinian; Mohammed Hesham Youssef, an Egyptian; Kifah Wael Jayyousi, a Jordanian national and US citizen; and Kassem Daher, a Lebanese citizen.

The indictment was returned under seal on Thursday by a federal grand jury in Miami. Hassoun also was indicted on eight additional charges, including perjury, obstruction of justice and illegal firearm possession.

Hassoun, a computer programmer who moved to Florida in 1989, was arrested in June 2002 for allegedly overstaying his student visa.

Prosecutors previously described him as a former associate of Padilla.—Sapa-AP

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