Document in Padilla case under dispute

Published: Saturday, January 14, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 13, 2006 at 11:43 p.m.
MIAMI - The application to join an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan purportedly filled out by alleged terror operative Jose Padilla was released Friday by federal prosecutors, one day after defense lawyers questioned its authenticity.
The "Mujahideen Data Form," which begins with the salutation "Brother Mujahid," bears the signature of Abu Abdullah al Muhajir, which the FBI says is the Muslim name that Padilla adopted after he converted to Islam. He was also known as Abu Abdullah the Puerto Rican.
It was this form that Padilla completed to begin training in Afghanistan on July 24, 2000, according to prosecutor Stephanie Pell. It was found by U.S. forces in late 2001 in a binder that contained between 80 and 100 other terror camp applications, she said.
Padilla is accused in a federal grand jury indictment with four others of being part of a North American terror support cell that provided material, money and fighters for Muslim extremist causes around the world. Padilla, who has pleaded not guilty, is specifically accused of going to Afghanistan to become a terror operative.
"He was recruited to travel overseas to engage in jihad or armed confrontation," Pell said at a hearing Thursday. The form was released after prosecutors filed it with the court.
Padilla, a U.S. citizen, was charged with those crimes in November after more than three years in military custody as an "enemy combatant." U.S. officials have said he was plotting to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb" or blow up apartment buildings in an American city, but those allegations are not part of the criminal case expected to go to trial in September.
The al-Qaeda application could be a critical piece of evidence for prosecutors attempting to prove that Padilla sought to become a terrorist. One of his lawyers, Michael Caruso, said at the hearing Thursday there is scant evidence to link Padilla to the form and insufficient proof that it is authentic.
"Weak is not the right word," Caruso said of the government's case.
The form, which was translated from Arabic by the FBI and has been declassified, reads a bit like a standard job or school application, with bureaucratic questions on level of education, languages spoken and marital status. It also has a series of questions about religious training and whether the applicant has any other military experience.
In answer to one question, Padilla allegedly said that he traveled to "Egypt, to study - Saudi Arabia for Hajj (the Islamic religious pilgrimage) - Yemen, as a way to go through for Jihad."
Under skills, the applicant said "carpentry" and that he spoke English, Spanish and Arabic. The applicant reported that he was referred by someone named "Abu al Feda," who is not further identified. Under occupation, the application said "student."
The form is labeled at the top as a "New Comers Form" that is "top secret" and includes this sentence in the instructions:
"We pledge to you that no one will have access except those officials who need to know. Administration."

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