A federal judge Friday ordered a three-month delay for the trial of alleged Al Qaeda operative Jose Padilla and two others, in part to allow time for a full evaluation of Padilla's mental competency.

U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke set a new trial date of April 16. It was the third time the case had been postponed.

Padilla, a 36-year-old U.S. citizen and former Chicago gang member, is charged with being part of a North American cell that provided cash, supplies and recruits to Islamic extremists.

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He was arrested in 2002 at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and originally accused of plotting to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb" in a U.S. city.

President George W. Bush designated him an enemy combatant, and Padilla was held without criminal charges at a U.S. Navy brig for more than 3 years before he was added to a Miami terrorism-support case in late 2005 during a legal clash over the president's wartime detention powers. The dirty bomb allegations are not mentioned in the Miami indictment.

Trial for Padilla, alleged recruiter Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi had been scheduled to start on Jan. 22.

Padilla claims he was tortured while in the Navy brig, a contention the Justice Department and Pentagon have repeatedly denied. Mental experts hired by Padilla's lawyers filed court papers saying that Padilla suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and cannot adequately assist his legal defense team.

"This is a case that has to be done right. If additional time is needed, then it is time well spent," said his attorney Anthony Natale.

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