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Archive for Wednesday, February 6, 2002

Grand jury indicts American Taliban

February 6, 2002

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— A federal grand jury indicted John Walker Lindh on 10 charges Tuesday, alleging he was trained by Osama bin Laden's network and then conspired with the Taliban to kill Americans.

Lindh's lawyers, nonetheless, pleaded for his release until trial, and they said "highly coercive" prison conditions forced him to waive his right to remain silent and confess his activities as a Taliban soldier to the FBI in Afghanistan.

With his arraignment scheduled for Monday, the indictment accused Lindh of conspiring to provide support to terrorist organizations, including al-Qaida, supplying services to Afghanistan's former Taliban rulers and possessing weapons during violent crimes. Lindh faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.

"John Walker Lindh chose to train with al-Qaida, chose to fight with the Taliban, chose to be led by Osama bin Laden," said Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft. "The reasons for his choices may never be fully known to us, but the fact of these choices is clear.

"Americans who love their country do not dedicate themselves to killing Americans," Ashcroft told a Justice Department news conference called to announce the charges.

The indictment supersedes a criminal complaint that was based on statements Lindh made to the FBI in December in Afghanistan.

The indictment said that in May or June last year, Lindh agreed to attend an al-Qaida training camp "knowing that America and its citizens were the enemies of bin Laden and al-Qaida and that a principal purpose of al-Qaida was to fight and kill Americans."

After the Sept. 11 attacks, the indictment said, Lindh remained with his fighting group "despite having been told that bin Laden had ordered the attacks, that additional terrorist attacks were planned and that additional al-Qaida personnel were being sent from training camps to the front lines to protect bin Laden and defend against an anticipated military response from the United States."

Ashcroft sought to address charges by Lindh's lawyers that his confessions were improperly obtained and that his civil rights had been violated.

"At each step in this process," he said, "Walker Lindh's rights, including his rights not to incriminate himself and to be represented by counsel, have been carefully, scrupulously honored."

Asked whether the government considered asking the grand jury to charge Lindh with treason, U.S. Atty. Paul J. McNulty said, "As far as other charges, we have the opportunity or right to have a superseding indictment if the evidence justifies that."

Earlier Tuesday, lawyers for Lindh asked that he be released pending trial, contending there was no evidence of criminal wrongdoing and no danger that he would flee. A hearing is set for today on the government's bid to continue holding Lindh without bond.

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