[JURIST] The US District Court for the Southern District of Florida [official website] heard opening statements Monday in the federal trial [calender] of US citizen and alleged al Qaeda operative Jose Padilla [JURIST news archive]. The government told jurors that Padilla and his two co-defendants were members of a secret terrorist cell based out of the Miami area, while an attorney representing Padilla's co-defendant Adham Amin Hassoun [GlobalSecurity profile] said that they were only trying to financially assist needy Muslims overseas. The government argued that Hassoun recruited Padilla, and Padilla agreed to be trained by al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
Jury selection in the trial ended [JURIST report] last week, after US District Judge Marcia Cooke [official profile], rejected claims on both sides that lawyers were basing their objections to potential jurors on racial or ethnic biases. Padilla was arrested in 2002 at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on accusations of planing to set off a "dirty bomb" and was subsequently detained without charges for three years as an "enemy combatant" [JURIST news archive] at a Navy military brig in Charleston, South Carolina. In November 2005 he was eventually charged [indictment, PDF; JURIST report] on unrelated counts of conspiracy to murder US nationals and supporting terrorist activity. He was transferred to civilian custody [JURIST report] in January 2006 and has pleaded not guilty [JURIST report]. AP has more.