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MIAMI — Jose Padilla’s lawyers claim the alleged al-Qaida operative has mental problems stemming from his treatment during 3 1/2 years in solitary confinement as an “enemy combatant” and have asked a federal judge to decide if he’s competent to stand trial. A psychiatrist and clinical psychologist who evaluated Padilla in September and October at his attorneys’ request concluded independently that he is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and is unable to help his defense lawyers prepare adequately for trial. “His reasoning is clearly impaired and paranoid tendencies are evident throughout the interviews,” the psychiatrist, Dr. Angela Hegarty, said in a formal assessment filed late Wednesday in federal court. “Facial tics are prominent when he becomes distressed. He appears hypervigilant at times.” Padilla, a U.S. citizen, claims he was tortured during his years in military custody at a naval brig in Charleston, S.C. He has asked U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke to dismiss the Miami terrorism support charges against him because of alleged “outrageous government conduct” during his detention and interrogations. Federal prosecutors have denied the torture allegations. But they agreed in court papers filed Wednesday that Cooke must determine Padilla’s mental competence before ruling on the dismissal motion or other key pretrial issues. Otherwise, they said, any conviction could easily be thrown out on appeal. “Whatever the credibility of that (competence) allegation, it has profound consequences for how this court proceeds until the issue is addressed,” prosecutors said in the filing. Padilla was designated an “enemy combatant” by President Bush shortly after his May 2002 arrest at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. He was held without charge until late last year, when he was added to the Miami case amid a legal clash over the president’s wartime detention powers. Authorities initially claimed Padilla was on an al-Qaida mission to detonate a radioactive “dirty bomb” in a major U.S. city, but those allegations are not part of the Miami case. Trial for Padilla and co-defendants Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi is currently scheduled to begin Jan. 22. All have pleaded not guilty to charges that they were part of a support cell for Islamic extremists around the world. The question of Padilla’s competency makes it less likely that trial will begin next month or anytime soon. Prosecutors also have asked a federal appeals court to reverse a previous decision by Cooke to dismiss a key terrorism charge because she found it duplicated other parts of the same indictment. Cooke has scheduled a status hearing for Monday. In their mental assessments, Hegarty or psychologist Patricia Zapf noted that Padilla: �”Reports being suspicious of everyone, including his attorneys, and stated that he does not know who he can and cannot trust. He indicated he was unsure of whether his attorneys might really be federal agents posing as his attorneys.” �”Appeared to become visibly distressed whenever asked about sensitive topics (his palms appeared to become sweaty … his body would tense up, and he would rock back and forth).” �”Is unable to watch video recordings of his interrogation … “ �”Appears convinced at times that no matter what happens he will be returned to the brig, even if he prevails in the current case.” �”Was certain that nobody could help him, that he could not be rescued from his current situation.” Both experts concluded that Padilla was not faking mental problems and, in Hegarty’s words, “is terrified that anyone will consider him mentally ill or crazy.”

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