- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 14, 2002

American Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh pleaded not guilty yesterday in federal court in Virginia to charges of conspiring to kill U.S. citizens in Afghanistan and of aiding Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network.
"Not guilty, sir," Lindh told U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III when asked for a plea on a 10-count indictment returned Feb. 5 by a federal grand jury in Alexandria.
The 21-year-old Californian, if convicted, faces three life sentences and 90 years.
In the courtroom was Shannon Spann, widow of CIA officer Johnny "Mike" Spann, killed during an uprising at an Afghanistan prison where Lindh was being held. Also at the hearing were Mr. Spann's parents, John and Gail Spann. The three sat quietly in the third row.
"We expect Mr. Walker to be personally held responsible for all the things he's done," Shannon Spann told reporters outside the courthouse. "My view today is certainly he should have been charged with treason, but I haven't had a chance to speak with the prosecutors yet and to understand the evidentiary decision-making that went into that decision."
Mr. Spann said the family had come to the hearing to see that justice was done.
"Tell them, Americans will not tolerate traitors," he said. "We sent our son … to a faraway land to fight against evil so we could continue to live and enjoy the freedom that we live in today. But as we all know, freedom is not free. Bodies have come home draped in flags, and Mike's was the first."
Gail Spann called her son a "hero, not because of the way he died but because of the way he lived." She described Lindh as a "traitor … and I hope all Americans will feel the same way I do."
The indictment does not charge Lindh with Mr. Spann's death. The CIA officer was killed in November shortly after interogating Lindh and others at a prison near Mazar-e-Sharif.
During the hearing, which lasted less than 30 minutes, Lindh spoke only briefly, responding to Judge Ellis' initial greeting with a "Good morning, sir" and saying "Yes" and "Correct, sir," when asked if he had seen the indictment and if he had reviewed it with his attorneys.
Judge Ellis did not set a trial date, but told prosecutors and defense attorneys he wants jury selection to begin Aug. 26. The government and Mr. Lindh's attorneys had suggested that the trial could begin in mid-November, but Judge Ellis said November was "too far" off. He said a jury could begin hearing the case in September.
The judge set a hearing for tomorrow to discuss a trial date.
Lindh, wearing a green jumpsuit with "prisoner" stamped on his back, smiled at his parents, John Lindh and Nancy Walker, as he was led out of the court. At one point, Lindh's father, with his hand extended, tried to approach Mr. Spann in the hallway, but was blocked by officials from the U.S. Attorney's Office who escorted the Spann family to a nearby elevator.
Sam Dibbley, spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty, said prosecutors wanted to "get the family out without anyone speaking to them."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Randy Bellows said he expected it would take two weeks to present his case. The government did not object to the November trial date sought by the defense lawyers, who wanted time to conduct overseas investigations, prepare for arguments on the suppression of evidence and to allow the effects of what they have called prejudicial publicity to fade.
The indictment named Lindh on charges of conspiracy to murder U.S. citizens or U.S. nationals, two counts of conspiracy to provide material support and resources to a terrorist organization, two counts of providing material support and resources to terrorists, and one count of supplying services to the Taliban.
It also accused him of conspiracy to contribute services to al Qaeda, contributing services to al Qaeda, conspiracy to supply services to the Taliban, and using and carrying firearms and destructive devices during crimes of violence.
"As al Qaeda was training and financing its operatives in the United States, the indictment places John Walker Lindh in an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan, honing his skills in weapons, explosives and battlefield combat," said Attorney General John Ashcroft in announcing the charges.
"John Walker Lindh swore allegiance to jihad, after being told that Osama bin Laden had sent some 50 people to carry out multiple suicide operations against the United States and Israel," he said.
The indictment said that on September 11, Lindh was fighting alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan.

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