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Was Jose Padilla tortured by US military?

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When suspected Al Qaeda operative Jose Padilla was taken into military custody in 2002, his interrogators set out to crush any hope he might have that a neutral judge or a defense lawyer would come to his aid.

It is difficult to convince a US citizen that legal protections guaranteed in the Constitution no longer exist for him. But that was the mission of US military interrogators ordered to extract as much intelligence as possible from Mr. Padilla.

"Only after such time as Padilla has perceived that help is not on the way can the United States reasonably expect to obtain all possible intelligence information from Padilla," explained Vice Adm. Lowell Jacoby in an affidavit to an inquiring federal judge.

The statement was made seven months into what became 21 months of strict isolation in a military brig without access to a lawyer or any other human contact besides Padilla's jailers and interrogators.

Now, Padilla is facing an April trial in federal court here on charges that he became a willing Al Qaeda recruit in a violent global jihad. But his lawyers complain that Padilla's harsh treatment during nearly four years of military detention and interrogation has left him so psychologically damaged that he is unable to help wage his own defense.

US District Judge Marcia Cooke is being asked to decide whether Padilla is mentally competent to stand trial.

In a hearing before Judge Cooke Friday, federal prosecutors are expected to urge the judge to ignore everything that took place during Padilla's military detention. They say his harsh treatment is irrelevant to whether he is mentally competent to stand trial.

Padilla's lawyers disagree. They say their client was tortured by the military and they are asking the judge to order the government to fully account for its treatment of Padilla.

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