March 15, 2002

American Taliban Fighter Wants Access to Detainees

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Lawyers for John Walker Lindh, the American Taliban fighter charged with conspiring to kill Americans abroad, said on Friday a fair trial requires their access to prisoners captured in Afghanistan and held at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and elsewhere.

In court papers filed in Alexandria, Virginia, the defense lawyers also said there were two differing versions about what Lindh told U.S. military interrogators in December.

In one, they said, ``Lindh was obviously disillusioned when he learned of the attacks on the World Trade Center and wanted to leave his Taliban unit, but could not do so for fear of death.''

But the other later version omitted any reference to those statements, his lawyers said in arguing that they were entitled to the complete military reports summarizing Lindh's statements. They currently only have reports with deletions.

The 21-year-old Californian's lawyers also asked that the U.S. government reveal the identities of those in U.S. custody in Cuba and elsewhere who have provided information about the allegations against him.

Seeking information that helps Lindh, the lawyers said, ''Mr. Lindh cannot get a fair trial without information about and access to those witnesses.''

About 300 al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners, who were captured in Afghanistan, are being held at the base in Cuba.

The lawyers also sought ``any and all written records or documents'' with information about Lindh obtained during the interrogation and interview of detainees in Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere.

Captured in November during the fall of Kunduz in Afghanistan, Lindh was shot in the leg during a bloody prison uprising outside the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif, where CIA officer Johnny ``Mike'' Spann was killed.

The lawyers specifically wanted any information from the military detainees corroborating that Lindh was not involved in the planning or in the uprising itself.

Lindh is facing a 10-count indictment that includes charges of conspiring to kill U.S. civilians and military personnel abroad, engaging in prohibited transactions with the deposed Taliban government, and conspiring with and aiding the Taliban and Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.

Lindh, who was flown to the United States to stand trial in January, has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

As part of their request, Lindh's lawyers also asked for all written records or documents about his alleged association with the al Qaeda network, which the United States has blamed for the Sept. 11 hijacked plane attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The lawyers also asked for information about a confidential government informant in Afghanistan, identified only as ``CS-1'' and a U.S. government employee, including any information about the prison uprising.

The lawyers also sought information about U.S. military activities in the area where Lindh fought in Afghanistan. They said the government must show there were U.S. forces in the same area as Lindh.

Government prosecutors will respond to Lindh's requests on March 29, and the judge in the case will then hold a hearing on April 1.

Copyright 2002, Reuters News Service. All rights reserved.

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