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Terror suspect Padilla appears in Miami court

Former 'enemy combatant' scheduled to enter plea Friday

From Susan Candiotti

Jose Padilla has been held since May 2002, when he returned to the United States from Pakistan.


Justice Department
Jose Padilla
Crime, Law and Justice

MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- Jose Padilla, the terror suspect dubbed an "enemy combatant" and held without charges for more than three years, was flown to Miami on Thursday and appeared briefly before a federal magistrate.

More than a dozen federal marshals and court security officers lined the courtroom as Padilla was brought in wearing handcuffs, leg shackles and an orange jumpsuit.

The hearing before U.S. magistrate Barry L. Garber lasted about five minutes, and Padilla, 35, will return to court Friday. (Watch Padilla ordered moved from military custody to civilian court -- 1:07)

He is expected to enter a not guilty plea to an indictment that charges him with three counts: conspiracy to murder U.S. nationals, conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, and providing material support to terrorists. (Read the indictmentexternal link)

Prosecutors also are expected to argue that he should remain in custody without bail.

Reporters packed the courtroom to get a glimpse of Padilla, who wore wire-frame glasses, and had closely cropped hair and a pencil-thin mustache. He sat quietly in court, with handcuffed hands in his lap.

Asked if he understood his legal rights, Padilla responded, "Yes, I do."

Heavy police escort

Earlier in the afternoon, Padilla arrived in Miami aboard a Department of Homeland Security helicopter and was whisked to the courthouse in a black SUV under heavy law enforcement escort.

The transfer to civilian custody came after a legal battle that went all the way to the Supreme Court.

Thursday's hearing marked the former Chicago gang member's first appearance before a judge since his arrest at O'Hare Airport in May 2002. President Bush designated him an enemy combatant the following month, and he has spent nearly four years in a military brig in Charleston, South Carolina.

On Wednesday the Supreme Court granted a request from the government authorizing Padilla's transfer to Justice Department custody. A federal appeals court had previously blocked the move.

In November, Padilla, who the government alleges has al Qaeda ties, was added to the South Florida indictment. Two co-defendants -- Adham Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi -- have pleaded not guilty. A third, Mohamed Hesham Yousef, is in custody in Egypt.

The whereabouts of a fourth codefendant is not known.

A trial has been scheduled in September.

Accused of plotting holy war

The indictment alleges Padilla belonged to a North American terrorist support cell and intended to carry out jihad, or holy war, in foreign countries.

Separately, the Supreme Court will consider a broader appeal from Padilla next week, which questions whether the president had the constitutional authority to keep him in military custody as an enemy combatant.

The government had argued that issue is moot because he faces criminal charges. The justices will consider whether to address the appeal January 13.

In a sharply worded opinion two weeks ago, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, noted differences between the criminal charges filed against Padilla in November and earlier accusations leveled against him as an enemy combatant.

Padilla was originally accused of -- but never charged with -- being a potential "dirty bomber," plotting to detonate a crude radioactive device in the United States.

The Brooklyn, New York-born Padilla has previously served prison terms for juvenile murder in Illinois and gun possession in Florida. He converted to Islam when he moved to Egypt in 1998, taking the name Abdullah al-Muhajir.

According to the government, Padilla trained at al Qaeda military camps in Afghanistan in 2000, after being recruited by a Yemeni man he met on a pilgrimage to Mecca.

CNN's Kelli Arena, Carol Cratty, Phil Hirschkorn, Terry Frieden and Bill Mears contributed to this report.

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