Unlike most terror-conspiracy cases, the case against Padilla and his two co-defendants does not focus on any particular plot or attack. Instead, prosecutors say the defendants violated US law by participating in a North American support cell that sent money and recruits to a wide variety of radical Muslim groups overseas. It is the overseas Muslim groups that engaged in violent jihad, or holy war.
Padilla's part in the alleged conspiracy, prosecutors say, is that he became a willing recruit who traveled to the Middle East and Afghanistan, where he signed up for military training with Al Qaeda.
Padilla's lawyers tell a different story. They say their client is a Muslim convert from south Florida who traveled to the Mideast to further his study of Islam. He has an Egyptian wife, whom he met while a student in Cairo, and two small children.
Another defendant – the alleged leader of the support cell – is Adham Amin Hassoun, a Palestinian who fled Lebanon as a refugee in the 1980s and settled in south Florida. He has suggested in the past that he was targeted for investigation after the 9/11 attacks because of his outspoken political beliefs.
The third defendant, Kifah Wael Jayyousi, founded and ran several humanitarian organizations that allegedly contributed money to suspected terror groups. He also produced "The Islam Report," a publication that prosecutors say promoted violent jihad as a religious obligation.
The defendants deny that they supported violence. They say that they were helping fellow Muslims in need.
According to the indictment, the North American support cell was active for about eight years from October 1993 to November 2001. During that period, $58,700 was allegedly sent overseas to various Muslims. In its most active year – 1998 – the group transferred $19,800 to Egypt and Kosovo.
In November 2001, three weeks after the 9/11 attacks, a $2,000 check was issued for "Afghan relief."
Although the indictment tracks the movement of money, it does not identify how the money was spent. Prosecutors say Mr. Hassoun and others used coded language to disguise their support for terror operations. For example, some checks were designated to support "tourism," another noted simply "for brothers."