The attorneys — Orlando do Campo of the federal public defender’s office in Miami, Andrew Patel of New York City and William Swor of Detroit — along with an Arabic-speaking interpreter they hired arrived in Cyprus on July 19 and caught flights home the next day.
“I’m just glad we didn’t wait for the Marines,” Patel said in an interview from home Friday. “I don’t see why the U.S. government couldn’t just bring a boat into the harbor like all the other countries did. Most other countries, like Thailand and Bulgaria, found simpler ways to get their people out.”
The four men were among an estimated 25,000 Americans trapped in Lebanon when Israeli forces began bombing Hezbollah targets there July 12. The United States has drawn criticism for not coordinating rescue operations for its citizens as quickly as other countries did.
Do Campo and Patel are representing one of the most high-profile terrorism defendants in the country, Jose Padilla. Swor is representing one of Padilla’s four co-defendants, Kifah Jayyousi. They are facing trial in U.S. District Court in Miami in September on charges of conspiring to commit terrorism and funding Islamic terrorist efforts throughout the world. All have pleaded not guilty.
Patel, while he would not reveal details of whom they interviewed, said that his defense group’s mission was successful. The bombing of Beirut by Israel did not begin until the day the group was set to leave, July 13. The group started the trip on July 2 and stopped in other countries, which Patel declined to identify, before arriving in Beirut on July 9.