Associated Press WriterWASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush has approved allowing the Justice Department to charge American Taliban John Walker Lindh in civilian court on charges of aiding terrorism, government sources said Tuesday.
Lindh, 20, was captured in November fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan. He was taken into custody by U.S. forces after a prison uprising at a fortress in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif. Lindh since then has been held on the amphibious attack ship USS Bataan in the Arabian Sea.
A baptized Roman Catholic who converted to Islam at 16, Lindh sent a letter to his parents in December saying he was safe and regretted not contacting them sooner. He apparently dictated the letter, dated Dec. 3, to an International Red Cross volunteer.
Among the factors Bush had to consider in determining how Lindh would be handled was whether he would be tried in a U.S. civilian court or military tribunal.
The Justice Department had said possible charges against Lindh could include treason, which carries the death penalty. Such a charge was considered difficult because of the technical requirements of proving the charge. They include the need for two witnesses to each act of treason, which may be hard to find in Afghanistan.
Raised in California, Lindh traveled abroad to study Islam and later joined forces with the Taliban.
Among charges that could have been filed against him were treason, which carries a maximum punishment of death or at least five years in prison.
Attorney General John Ashcroft scheduled a news conference for Tuesday afternoon.
Government sources discussing the situation on condition of anonymity said the charges would be brought by in U.S. District Court in suburban Alexandria, Va., where terrorism suspect Zacarias Moussaoui is to be tried for conspiracy in the Sept. 11 attacks.