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LAW CENTER

Terror suspect's day in court delayed

Former 'enemy combatant' will be arraigned January 12

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Justice Department
Jose Padilla
Crime, Law and Justice

MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- Jose Padilla, the terror suspect classified as an "enemy combatant" and held without charges for more than three years, will wait until next week to begin his defense in a civilian court.

Friday's federal court hearing, at which Padilla was expected to plead not guilty to a three-count indictment, was postponed until next Thursday at 10 a.m.

"We will provide him with a zealous defense," said Padilla defense attorney Andrew Patel. Patel said he and Donna Newman -- Padilla's New York attorneys on the case since 2002 -- will now work with the federal defender's office in Miami.

Padilla, wearing handcuffs, waved and smiled at his mother and one of his brothers who came to court Friday. His mother, who lives in Florida, was not permitted to visit him during his detention in a South Carolina naval brig that began in June 2002.

"We will be trying to make these arrangements so that his family will be able to see him," Patel said.

Padilla arrived in Miami on Thursday, flown by a Department of Homeland Security helicopter and driven to court in a a black SUV with a heavy law enforcement escort.

Padilla will plead not guilty to a terrorism 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.

"It has taken three-and-a-half years, but Mr. Padilla has now been charged with a crime," Patel said. "This case should be tried in a public courtroom, and it will be tried in a public courtroom."

Prosecutors are expected to argue that he should remain in custody without bail because they charge he represents a danger to the community.

Padilla was arrested returning from overseas at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport in May 2002 and detained as a material witness in the September 11, 2001, attacks investigation. President Bush designated him an enemy combatant the following month and turned him over to the military.

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

Next Friday, the justices will consider in a closed-door conference whether to rehear the Padilla case.

"The issue that is primarily before the court that we've asked them to take is: Does the president of the United States have the authority to sign a piece of paper and send someone to jail without criminal process and have him held by the military? We say the Constitution doesn't permit that," Patel said.

The government had argued that issue is moot because Padilla now faces criminal charges and has been released from military custody.

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 and remain in custody, though Jayyousi has been granted a bail package.

A fourth defendant, Mohamed Hesham Yousef, is in custody in Egypt. The whereabouts of a fifth defendant, Kassem Daher, is not known.

A trial has been scheduled to begin in September.

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

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, and later scheming to blow up apartment buildings using natural gas.

The Brooklyn-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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