- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 20, 2001

From combined dispatches
The Justice Department has ruled out charging American Taliban guerrilla John Walker with treason, NBC News reported last night.
Citing unnamed U.S. officials, the network said prosecutors were preparing to charge Walker with violating a federal law that makes it a crime to support a terrorist organization. The maximum penalty for a conviction would be 10 years in prison; the maximum penalty for treason is death.
There was no immediate comment on the report from U.S. officials.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer had said earlier in the day that the Justice Department and the Pentagon were reviewing whether to file criminal charges, and that a decision could come this week.
Also yesterday, CNN aired an interview with a dizzy and weary Walker soon after his capture in which he said he had been a part of a group of Arab guerrillas funded by terrorist Osama bin Laden.
He also said he had attended a training camp for Ansar, whose members fought for the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The interview was done Dec. 2 by a CNN reporter and was aired in its entirety for the first time yesterday.
Walker said the Taliban fighters were organized in different branches based on ethnic groups. At first, Walker stayed with Taliban fighters from Pakistan, where he had studied for a couple of years. But then he was put with the group of Arab fighters who were funded by bin Laden because he spoke Arabic.
"Originally, I came with Pakistanis," Walker said. "They sent me to the Arabs."
Walker, a 20-year-old from San Anselmo, Calif., also defended the Taliban guerrillas in Afghanistan, saying the Koran permits Muslims to kill other Muslims in cases of holy war.
"That is a question that is addressed in the Koran itself," Walker told CNN. "In certain cases, Muslims by necessity can kill and there are situations in which a Muslim can be killed [by other Muslims]."
Referring to jihad, the Islamic word for holy war, he said, "It's exactly what I thought it would be."
Asked if the Taliban was the right cause, he said, "Definitely."
The fate of Walker has prompted a national debate breaking out over how he is to be treated after having abandoned his country to join the Taliban.
Walker's family has demanded he be allowed to see an attorney. His parents, Frank Lindh and Marilyn Walker, have attempted to portray their son, who converted to Islam at the age of 16, as a misguided idealist.
The White House said yesterday the decision to deny a lawyer to Walker was appropriate because he is still a "battlefield detainee" governed by the Geneva Convention.
"He is being treated as someone who fought against the United States in an armed conflict, and that's why he is classified properly as a battlefield detainee, and he's being treated well," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.
Walker was captured earlier this month after a prison uprising among Taliban fighters at which CIA agent Johnny "Mike" Spann was killed. Walker was wounded during the uprising outside the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif.
Walker told CNN that after being captured, a few Taliban soldiers hid grenades in their clothes as they were taken to prison. He called the uprising a "mistake of a handful of people" because the Taliban soldiers had agreed not to fight.
"This is against what we had agreed upon, and this is against Islam," Walker said. "It is a major sin to break a contract, especially in military situations."

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