MIAMI (AP) - Jurors who will soon debate the guilt or innocence of Jose Padilla and two other men on terrorism support charges cannot consider whether their actions were justified by Islamic law, a federal judge ruled.
U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke agreed Thursday to a request from prosecutors to instruct the jurors that each of the men can be convicted even if they "may have believed that the conduct was religiously, politically or morally required, or that ultimate good would result."
Jurors are expected to begin deliberations after closing statements Monday and Tuesday. Padilla and co-defendants Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi are charged with being part of a North American support cell that provided finances, supplies and recruits to al-Qaida and other Islamic extremist groups.
A cornerstone of the defense during the nearly three-month trial was the idea that Islamic teaching provides for legitimate "defensive jihad," which differs from terrorism because it is meant to counter aggression against Muslims and does not threaten innocent people.
But Hassoun attorney Ken Swartz said his closing argument will not focus on whether violent actions might have been justified. Swartz said he plans to emphasize that any money or supplies provided to overseas groups was meant for humanitarian assistance.
"It's all about relief," Swartz said. "That is not giving aid for military purposes."
To find the three guilty of the most serious conspiracy charge, the one carrying a possible life sentence, jurors must conclude that each defendant "specifically intended" that people overseas would be murdered, kidnapped or maimed through their actions.
The prosecution case never linked any defendant directly to a specific violent act or victim, focusing instead on large groups subjected to attack such as the Russian Army and general conflicts in Chechnya, Bosnia, Lebanon, Somalia and elsewhere.
Padilla, Hassoun and Jayyousi are also charged with providing material support to terrorist groups and conspiracy to provide such support, each of which carries a maximum 15-year sentence. Padilla is charged with providing himself as one of Hassoun's recruits to al-Qaida by allegedly filling out a form in 2000 to attend a training camp in Afghanistan.
Not included in the Miami trial are the initial 2002 allegations that Padilla, a U.S. citizen and Muslim convert, had returned to the United States to build and detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb." Padilla was held for 3 1/2 years as an enemy combatant before he was added in late 2005 to the Miami terrorism support case.