Tapes Crucial in Padilla Trial

Prosecutors began playing wiretapped phone conversations yesterday in the terrorism trial of Jose Padilla in Miami.

A co-defendant can be heard on several of the tapes discussing sending military equipment to fighters in Chechnya in the 1990s, the New York Times reports.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Frazier told jurors in opening statements in mid-May that the wiretaps are crucial evidence. ”The phone calls will tell the story of this case,” he said.

Padilla’s voice is on only seven of around 300,000 recorded conversations. The co-defendants allegedly used code words for terrorist missions in the conversations, the Miami Herald reports. They included ”tourism,” ”zucchini,” ”playing football,” ”going on a picnic” and ”get some fresh air.”

Prosecutors may have to overcome juror misgivings about wiretaps, the Herald says. Juror candidates split down the middle on the subject, with half seeing them as an invasion of privacy and half seeing them as necessary.

Padilla was originally detained in a military brig as an enemy combatant on suspicion of plotting to release a dirty bomb. He was later transferred to the civilian court system where is being tried on charges he conspired to murder, kidnap and maim people in other countries.

Defense lawyers say the defendants merely wanted to help persecuted Muslims and study Islam.

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