John Walker Lindh indicted
Tuesday, February 5, 2002
Associated Press WriterALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) -- A federal grand jury indicted John Walker Lindh on Tuesday, accusing the American Taliban fighter of conspiring to kill fellow U.S. citizens in Afghanistan.
The 10-count indictment also accused Lindh of conspiring to provide support to terrorist organizations, including al-Qaida, and supplying services to the Taliban. Lindh could face several life terms in prison if convicted.
The indictment supersedes a criminal complaint that was based on statements Lindh made to the FBI in Afghanistan in December.
Announcing the indictment at the Justice Department, Attorney General John Ashcroft said the charges describe Lindh as "an al-Qaida-trained terrorist who conspired with the Taliban to kill his fellow citizens."
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 (Osama) 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 said the grand jury "examined the government's case and saw fit to charge John Walker Lindh with 10 specific crimes."
"The reason for his choices may never be fully known to us but the facts of his choices are clear," Ashcroft said.
The indictment added these new charges against Lindh that were not included in the criminal complaint:
--Consipiracy to contribute services to al-Qaida and contributing such services.
--Conspiracy to supply services to the Taliban and supplying services.
--Using and carrying firearms and destructive devices during crimes of violence.
Asked at a news conference whether the government considered asking the grand jury to charge Lindh with treason, U.S. Attorney 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.
"There are no allegations and no evidence that he ever so much as fired a shot, even at (U.S.-backed) northern alliance soldiers," Lindh's defense team said in a written motion to be argued at a hearing Wednesday.
The filing also contended that the government's charges, based on an FBI affidavit, are so weak that they are "insufficient to establish probable cause for the crimes charged." In addition to contending Lindh was no risk to flee, the lawyers also said he had no history of violent or dangerous conduct.
Prosecutors did not immediately respond to the motion, but it is virtually certain that the government will oppose release of the man who willingly joined the Taliban.
The lawyers asked that Lindh be permitted to stay with his father, Frank, and said he would be willing to use electronic monitoring devices to track his movements. The hearing was to be held Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate W. Curtis Sewell.
Lindh was apprehended by U.S. authorities and northern alliance allies in Afghanistan in early December after a prison uprising, during which a CIA agent was killed. The 20-year-old was brought back to the United States by military aircraft on Jan. 23 and appeared in court the following day, with his parents looking on.
In the court papers filed Tuesday, the defense team portrayed Lindh as a man who never attempted to harm any civilian and contended there was "no evidence that Mr. Lindh made any attempt to engage in combat with United States military forces."
The lawyers said that the entire case against Lindh was based on an FBI interview Dec. 9-10 in Afghanistan without a lawyer present and argued this was "insufficient to establish probable cause for the crimes charged."
Ashcroft has pointed out that Lindh signed a paper waiving his right to an attorney during the interview, but the defense said Lindh agreed to do so under "highly coercive conditions."
The lawyers said Lindh had been held incommunicado for eight days, provided minimal food and medical attention for a gunshot or shrapnel wound and was kept inside a metal container during severely cold weather.
The defense also contended there was no evidence that Lindh played any part in the prison riot by captured Taliban and al-Qaida soldiers that resulted in the death of CIA Agent Michael Spann.
"Even according to the facts alleged in the affidavit, however, the only services ever provided by Mr. Lindh were as a foot soldier for the Taliban," the motion said.