Image: Jose Padilla
J. Pat Carter  /  AP
Jose Padilla, an alleged al-Qaida operative, is escorted to a police van that would take him to Miami federal court to face terrorism charges on Thursday.
updated 1/6/2006 4:58:43 PM ET 2006-01-06T21:58:43

After being held for more than three years by the Navy as an “enemy combatant,” a man accused of being an alleged al-Qaida operative will begin constructing his defense as a civilian.

In a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court, Jose Padilla was transferred Thursday from military to civilian custody and made his first court appearance as a criminal defendant. His plea hearing, scheduled to be held on Friday, was postponed until Jan. 12 after the defense requested a delay, NBC News reported.

A judge will determine whether the former Chicago gang member will remain in custody or be released on bail. Prosecutors said they want him to be held before his trial.

Padilla is accused of joining a North American terror-support network that sent him overseas to train with al-Qaida and to “murder, maim and kidnap” people on foreign soil.

Earlier Thursday, Padilla was taken from a South Carolina brig and flown to Miami.

'Dirty bomb' suspicion
Padilla was arrested at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport in May 2002 and held by the Bush administration without criminal charges on suspicion of plotting to detonate a radioactive “dirty bomb” inside the United States.

The Supreme Court has been asked to use Padilla’s case to define the extent of presidential power over U.S. citizens who are detained on American soil on suspicion of terrorism. But before the high court could decide whether to take up the case, the Bush administration indicted Padilla in November in civilian court. The charges do not involve the “dirty bomb” allegations.

At the brief hearing Thursday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Garber explained Padilla’s rights as a criminal defendant and asked whether he understood them.

“Yes, I do,” said Padilla, dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit and shackled at the wrists and ankles. He wore glasses and had a short haircut.

Appeals court criticized administration
Padilla’s transfer to civilian custody was approved Wednesday by the Supreme Court, which overruled the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The appeals court had refused to allow the transfer in a decision sharply critical of the Bush administration. It suggested the administration changed tactics and indicted Padilla to avert a ruling from the Supreme Court on presidential powers during wartime.

Padilla is an alleged recruit of two defendants in a Miami terror case. Kifah Wael Jayyousi, a Jordanian who has U.S. citizenship, and Adhan Amin Hassoun, a Lebanese-born Palestinian, are accused of raising money and recruiting operatives to fight for radical Islamic causes in Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya and elsewhere. Their trial is expected to start in the fall.

Jayyousi also appeared in federal court Thursday. U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke ordered that he be released on bail and set a $1.3 million bond. She also ordered electronic monitoring and that Jayyousi not leave the South Florida area. He has been in solitary confinement since his arrest in March.

NBC News contributed to this report.

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