Attorney General John Ashcroft speaks against American Taliban member John Walker Lindh during a news conference yesterday at the Justice Department in Washington. Ashcroft announced that the Bush administration will charge Lindh with conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals in Afghanistan.
By Associated Press
Wednesday Jan. 16, 2002
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration will charge American Taliban John Walker Lindh with conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens in Afghanistan and will ask for life imprisonment rather than the death penalty, Attorney General John Ashcroft said yesterday.
Lindh will be charged in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., rather than in a military tribunal. Other charges against him will include providing support to terrorist organizations and engaging in prohibited transactions with the Taliban, Ashcroft said.
The attorney general said that while the United States continues to seek justice against foreigners responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington, "we cannot overlook attacks on America when they come from U.S. citizens."
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said President Bush "is supportive of the process put in place. He is confident that the process will end in justice."
The charges were recommended to Bush by the National Security Council, which mediated advice from the Justice Department, the Pentagon and the State Department.
"Youth is not absolution for treachery," Ashcroft told reporters. "Misdirected Americans cannot receive direction in murderous ideology."
Lindh is 20.
He was captured in November fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan. He was taken into custody by U.S. forces after a prison uprising at a fortress in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif. Lindh since then has been held on the amphibious attack ship USS Bataan in the Arabian Sea.
A baptized Roman Catholic who converted to Islam at 16, Lindh sent a letter to his parents in December saying he was safe and regretted not contacting them sooner. He apparently dictated the letter, dated Dec. 3, to an International Red Cross volunteer.
Ashcroft said the charges against Lindh were based for the most part on his own statements to FBI investigators.
According to Ashcroft, Lindh told agents that he joined a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan last May and spent seven months there. Osama bin Laden visited the camp several times and met Lindh on one occasion, Lindh said.