New York Times
February 6, 2002
Excerpt From Lawyers' Filing for Lindh: 'Threatened Him With Death'
Following is an excerpt from a document filed in federal District Court by lawyers for John Walker Lindh to support their motion that he be released from jail pending his trial on charges of conspiring with Al Qaeda to kill Americans:
In early November 2001, troops of the State of Afghanistan defending a battle line against Northern Alliance advances in the Takhar region retreated toward Kunduz. Mr. Lindh walked without rest for about two days, covering approximately 50 miles through mountainous terrain before arriving in Kunduz. Upon arrival, he was exhausted, severely dehydrated and in physical and psychological shock that impaired his ability to speak.
On approximately Nov. 24, 2001, Mr. Lindh and others surrendered their weapons to troops under the command of Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum and were driven by truck to the fortress at Qala Jangi near Mazar-i-Sharif.
At Qala Jangi, Mr. Lindh was held prisoner by Dostum's forces. Dostum and his troops have a reputation for massacring, raping and looting prisoners. That reputation was known to Mr. Lindh and others.
On or about Nov. 25, 2001, Mr. Lindh was seated on the ground in the area around the Qala Jangi fort with his hands bound behind him. At that time, he heard an explosion. When Mr. Lindh attempted to run, he was hit by shrapnel or bullets and fell to the ground, where he lay for some hours until he was helped into the basement of the fort by other prisoners.
Mr. Lindh remained in the Qala Jangi fort basement for about seven days until Dec. 1, 2001. During that time, Mr. Lindh had almost no food and very little drinking water.
While Mr. Lindh was in the basement, Dostum's soldiers threw grenades through ventilation ducts, killing prisoners below.
At one point, Dostum's soldiers poured oil or diesel fuel down a duct into the basement. About 5 to 10 minutes later, Dostum's soldiers lit the fuel and also poured it into another area of the basement, in which prisoners were more tightly packed. Many prisoners died from the fire.
Dostum's soldiers also fired large rockets into the basement through a ventilation shaft, killing many prisoners.
Toward the end of the week, Dostum's soldiers directed ice cold water through the ducts to flood the basement. As the water rose, Mr. Lindh was able to stand up with the help of other prisoners to avoid drowning. Around Mr. Lindh, other prisoners who could not stand were drowned.
Wounded, starved and freezing, Mr. Lindh emerged from the fort on Dec. 1, 2001. He was dizzy and numb from the events and apparently still had shrapnel or bullets imbedded in his body.
After Mr. Lindh emerged, he was taken into U.S. custody. Government agents restrained and blindfolded Mr. Lindh and drove him from Mazar-i-Sharif to a location where he was held for approximately 5 to 6 days. Mr. Lindh was held in a room with a single window that was covered with a black cloth such that Mr. Lindh could distinguish day and night only from light he detected around the cloth's edges. Armed guards stood sentry inside the room. Although a medic checked Mr. Lindh, the medic did nothing more than change his bandages. Despite his state of malnutrition and dehydration, Mr. Lindh was provided only small portions of food. His requests for medical attention to his wounds and for additional food were refused.
Unidentified government agents interrogated Mr. Lindh in this dark room over the course of two or three days. Mr. Lindh provided the interrogators with whatever information he had that might assist them in the war effort.
During this time, Mr. Lindh asked his interrogators on more than one occasion when he could see a lawyer and when he could he see a doctor. The interrogators never advised Mr. Lindh of his right to counsel and stated that they did not know when Mr. Lindh could see a lawyer.
After the interrogations, Mr. Lindh was provided somewhat more food, and the guards were no longer posted in his room 24 hours a day.
On or about Dec. 6 or 7, 2001, Mr. Lindh was taken by airplane to Camp Rhino, a U.S. Marine outpost in the high desert zone about 70 miles south of Kandahar, Afghanistan. He was blindfolded and tightly handcuffed with plastic straps so tight that they cut into his skin and cut off the circulation to his hands. During the course of being transferred to Camp Rhino, Mr. Lindh's government custodians threatened him with death and torture.
When the airplane landed, soldiers cut off all of Mr. Lindh's clothes. Completely naked, other than his blindfold, Mr. Lindh was then placed on a stretcher. He was bound to the stretcher with heavy tape that was tightly wound around his chest, upper arms, shoulders, ankles and the stretcher itself.
Completely immobilized and still blindfolded and handcuffed, Mr. Lindh was then placed inside a rectangular, windowless metal shipping container. The metal container sat on the desert floor surrounded by rolls of barbed wire and a watchtower. Guards were posted outside the container. There was no light, heat source or insulation inside the container. There were at least two small holes in the container that allowed some light and air to enter.
Mr. Lindh's hands and feet remained cuffed such that his forearms were forced together and fully extended, pointing straight down toward his feet. Mr. Lindh remained fully exposed within the metal container until, after some time had passed, a single, thin blanket was placed over him.
Mr. Lindh was kept in these conditions continuously for two to three days. During that time, he was provided minimal food and little medical attention. Due to hunger, the cold temperature and the position in which he was restrained, Mr. Lindh was able to sleep little if at all. During this time, he began to experience pain in his feet, in addition to the pain from his untreated shrapnel wounds. Guards would frequently shout epithets at Mr. Lindh through the small holes in the metal container.
After approximately three days' being held in these conditions, Mr. Lindh was led from the shipping container to a nearby tent and sat on a cot. When his blindfold was removed, he was facing a man who identified himself as an F.B.I. agent. When Mr. Lindh asked for a lawyer, the agent told him there were no lawyers there.
Mr. Lindh was not told that his parents had retained an attorney for him who was ready and willing to see him in Afghanistan. The government had also prevented the Red Cross from delivering a note that Mr. Lindh's parents sent to him on or about Dec. 3, 2001, stating that they had retained counsel for Mr. Lindh. This was the first of several attempts by Mr. Lindh's parents to communicate with him through the Red Cross, none of which were allowed.
After interrogation by the F.B.I. agent, Mr. Lindh continued to be held in the metal shipping container, but his treatment began to improve. His leg and hand cuffs were loosened somewhat, and he was no longer blindfolded at all times. The duct tape was removed from his body, allowing him to move his legs and arms as long as he requested permission to do so. He received more food and, eventually, a thermal blanket.
On approximately Dec. 14, Mr. Lindh was transferred to the U.S.S. Peleliu. Sometime after transfer to the ship, Mr. Lindh, for the first time, received surgery for his wounds. On Jan. 6, he was allowed, for the first time, to receive letters from his parents and the lawyers that they had retained on his behalf.
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