Four military officials at the US Navy prison where José Padilla was held for over three and a half years as an "enemy combatant" have been called to testify at a district court hearing to determine the detainee's mental competency.
The hearing is a unique opportunity for Padilla's lawyers to press their claim that prolonged solitary confinement and other ill-treatment while in detention has left their client unfit to stand trial.
This is also one of the few times since 11 September 2001 that officials responsible for the detention conditions and interrogation of "war on terror" detainees, have been called to testify; it is the first time in the Padilla case.
The hearing started on 22 February 2007.
José Padilla was arrested in Chicago in May 2002 on the basis that he was a "material witness" to the 11 September 2001 attacks in the USA. In June 2002, President Bush designated him an "enemy combatant" and transferred him to a military prison in South Carolina.
Detained without charge or trial until November 2005, Padilla was also held incommunicado and in solitary confinement for long periods. In January 2006, he was transferred to a civil prison in Miami, where he faces charges of "conspiracy to murder, kidnap, and maim persons in a foreign country, and to provide material support for terrorist." The trial is scheduled to start in April 2007.
On 28 February, a Miami judge ruled that Jose Padilla was fit to stand trial. The trial is set to begin on 16 April.