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US-Born Muslim Convert Guilty on Terror Charges

U.S.-born Muslim convert Jose Padilla has been found guilty of conspiring to commit terrorist acts abroad. In Miami, VOA's Brian Wagner reports a jury found that Padilla and two co-defendants were guilty after a three-month trial.

The jury in Miami deliberated for less than two days before declaring the three men guilty of conspiracy to commit terrorist acts and provide material support to terrorism. The charges against Padilla, Lebanese-born Palestinian Adham Hassoun and Kifah Jayyousi of Jordan, carry possible life prison terms.

Prosecutors had said the three belonged to a North American terrorist support cell that sent money, supplies and recruits abroad to fight alongside Islamic extremist groups. They said Padilla became one such terrorist recruit when he met Hassoun at a mosque in south Florida in the late 1990s.

A key piece of evidence used by prosecutors against Padilla was a form that he allegedly signed in Afghanistan to join an al-Qaida training camp in 2000.

In Washington, acting Deputy Attorney General Craig Morford congratulated the work of investigators and prosecutors in the case.

"I believe this case serves as a vivid reminder of the serious threat that we face, and the need for continued diligence and resolve as we address that threat," said Craig Morford.

Defense attorneys for Hassoun and Jayyousi said they were disappointed by the verdict and would appeal. They had argued in trial that the two contributed to legitimate charities that sought to aid Muslims who were being attacked in places like Afghanistan, Chechnya and Kosovo in the 1990s.

After the verdict was read, Padilla's mother, Estela Lebron, said her son traveled to the Middle East and south Asia to study Islam, not to join a terrorist movement.

"He wanted to learn the language, the Arabic language," she said. "He is a Muslim, he can choose whatever religion he wants."

The Bush administration has faced repeated criticism over its treatment of Padilla, since he was detained in 2002 after arriving to Chicago on a flight from Pakistan. He was initially named an enemy combatant and placed in military custody, because of suspicions that he planned to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb."

More than three years later, he was transferred to civilian custody for trial. Defense lawyers for Padilla have said he was tortured while in military custody and suffered mental damage as a result. They filed a motion to declare Padilla mentally unfit for trial, which was rejected by the judge in Miami.