Grand jury indicts American Taliban

Wednesday, February 6, 2002

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- 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. His lawyers, nonetheless, pleaded for his release until trial.

The indictment also accused Lindh of conspiring to provide support to terrorist organizations, including al-Qaida, supplying services to the Taliban, and possessing weapons during violent crimes. Lindh could face several life prison terms if convicted.

"John Walker Lindh choose to train with al-Qaida, choose to fight with the Taliban, chose to be led by Osama bin Laden," said Attorney General 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."

Remained with group

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 if 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."

'No evidence'

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.

"There are no allegations and no evidence that he ever so much as fired a shot, even at northern alliance soldiers," Lindh's defense team said in a written motion.

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.

McNulty said the government would answer the charges by Lindh's lawyers at Wednesday's hearing. But he noted that the indictment includes a charge that under federal law carries "a presumption that a person would be detained" until trial.

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 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. He was brought back to the United States on Jan. 23.

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