Walker Lindh's lawyers will seek prison release

Lawyers representing John Walker Lindh, the US citizen captured with Taliban soldiers in Afghanistan, will today ask for him to be released from jail.

Lawyers representing John Walker Lindh, the US citizen captured with Taliban soldiers in Afghanistan, will today ask for him to be released from jail.

A US magistrate, Curtis Sewell, will determine whether the US government can continue to hold the Muslim-convert in prison if, as his defence team argues, the case against him is too weak to continue. They say the case is based on an inadmissible interview with the FBI.

In a written motion submitted to the court yesterday, Mr Walker Lindh's lawyers argued that their client waived his right to remain silent under "highly coercive" prison conditions in Afghanistan that left him blindfolded, tightly handcuffed and stripped naked last December.

John Ashcroft, the US attorney general, responded that Mr Walker Lindh's rights not to incriminate himself and to be represented by counsel had been "carefully, scrupulously honoured".

A grand jury indictment yesterday charged the defendant on 10 counts carrying a maximum prison sentence of life plus 30 years.

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

The indictment describes Walker Lindh's alleged role as a Taliban foot soldier in Afghanistan in the harshest terms, saying he conspired to "kill American citizens around the world" and "swore allegiance to jihad".

It says he stayed with his fighting group after September 11 "despite having been told that Bin Laden had ordered the attacks" and knowing that al-Qaida personnel were being sent to the front lines to defend against an "anticipated military response from the United States".

Asked whether the government considered putting a charge of treason before the grand jury, Paul McNulty, the US attorney, said: "As far as other charges, we have the opportunity or right to have a superseding indictment if the evidence justifies that."

Mr Walker Lindh will be asked to plead guilty or not guilty to the indictment at his arraignment on Monday.

He was apprehended by US authorities and the Northern Alliance in early December after a prison uprising near Mazar-i-Sharif, during which a CIA agent was killed.

A military aircraft brought him back to the US on January 23 and he appeared in court the following day with his parents in attendance.


Simon Jeffery

The GuardianTramp

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