I was tortured by US troops, says Taliban American

Lawyers for John Walker Lindh, the American who fought with the Taliban, claim he was systematically brutalised and threatened with 'torture and death' after US troops seized him.

Lawyers for John Walker Lindh, the American who fought with the Taliban, claim he was systematically brutalised and threatened with 'torture and death' after US troops seized him.

The claims come as his lawyers prepare to argue that he was a soldier of the Taliban, not an anti-US terrorist. At the centre of his defence will be his claim that the witness statement he provided to his FBI interrogators was given under duress and in the hope of ending his mistreatment.

Lindh is being tried in an ordinary court and will not face the death penalty, unlike foreign prisoners, who will be tried by ad hoc military tribunals with lesser requirements of proof and could face a firing squad if found guilty.

News of Lindh's arrest outraged America. Indicted by a federal grand jury as a terrorist, he was branded by Attorney-General John Ashcroft as 'an active, knowing participant' in the war against the US.

The defence said in court papers disclosed on Friday that Lindh was 'among Taliban' who surrendered to the Northern Alliance on 24 November. When some of the captives exploded grenades and attempted to escape, Lindh was wounded by shrapnel and a bullet.

For several hours, say the defence, he lay on the ground until fellow prisoners carried him to the basement of the Qala-e-Janghi fort. When he emerged around 1 December, he was taken into US custody and kept for about a week near Mazar-e-Sharif.

'He was held in a room in which the only window was blocked, making it difficult to discern whether it was night or day,' the lawyers said, adding that he was fed sparingly and given only minimal medical attention.

Transferred to Camp Rhino, the US base near Kandahar, 'he was blindfolded and bound with plastic cuffs so tight they cut off the circulation to his hands.

'Mr Lindh's clothes were cut off, his hands and feet were again shackled and he was bound tightly with duct tape to a stretcher. Still blindfolded and naked, he was placed in a metal shipping container.'

He remained until about 10 December when, still blindfolded and 'in a state of complete exhaustion', he was taken to a building or tent, where he was met by an FBI agent.

'When Mr Lindh asked for a lawyer, he was told there were no lawyers there,' the defence said.

They added that he talked, because 'Mr Lindh believed the only way to escape the torture was to do whatever the agent wanted'.


Peter Beaumont, foreign affairs editor

The GuardianTramp

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