- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 16, 2002

A federal judge in Virginia yesterday ordered jury selection to begin Aug. 26 in the trial of American Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh, rejecting motions by prosecutors and defense attorneys for a November trial date.
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, who will hear the case, indicated during Lindh's arraignment Wednesday that the proposed November date was "too far" off and "inappropriate."
The judge said he expected jury selection to take only a few days, meaning the Lindh trial on charges of conspiring with al Qaeda terrorists to kill U.S. citizens should be under way on the one-year anniversary of the September 11 attacks on America that killed more than 3,000 people.
"There will be special care to ensure that any jurors who are selected have not formed an opinion on this case," Judge Ellis told the court.
Defense attorney George Harris said he believed allowing the Lindh trial to occur during the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon would be "prejudicial" to his client.
"We all know this will be a day when there will be a great deal of genuine emotion and we understand that," Mr. Harris said.
The attorney added that, while there is no link between the attacks and his client, attempts have been made to make the connection.
Judge Ellis also said he hoped the trial would be as open to the public as possible and that he would discuss with prosecutors and defense attorneys the handling of classified information.
Lindh pleaded not guilty to a 10-count indictment handed up by a federal grand jury in Alexandria. The indictment named him on charges of conspiracy to murder U.S. citizens; 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.
In addition to moving the trial so it would not take place on the September 11 anniversary of the attacks, Lindh's defense team had asked for a November trial to afford time for a trip to Afghanistan to collect information for use in the case. Prosecutors did not object, also citing the need for additional time to interview witnesses and gather evidence in Afghanistan.
The 21-year-old, if convicted, faces three life sentences and 90 years.
Lindh was captured in November by U.S. military forces in Afghanistan and later sent to a prison near Mazar-e-Sharif, where CIA officer Johnny "Mike" Spann was killed during an uprising by Taliban and al Qaeda fighters. Mr. Spann's death occurred shortly after he had interviewed Lindh.
During Wednesday's arraignment, Mr. Spann's widow, Shannon, and his parents, John and Gail Spann, were in the courtroom. Mrs. Spann said she expected Lindh "to be personally held responsible for all the things he's done."
"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," she said.
Mr. Spann also described Lindh as a "traitor." He said the family had sent their son "to a faraway land to fight against evil so we could continue to live and enjoy the freedom that we live in today."

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