- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 16, 2002

A federal grand jury yesterday indicted American Taliban member John Walker on non-capital charges of conspiring to kill U.S. citizens, accusing the 20-year-old of training at an al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan and being thanked personally by Osama bin Laden for joining the battle.
Attorney General John Ashcroft said Walker, also known as John Walker Lindh, also was accused in a four-count indictment handed up in U.S. District Court in Alexandria of providing material support and resources to terrorists and of engaging in prohibited transactions with the Taliban.
If convicted by the civilian court, Walker could be sentenced to life in prison.
The attorney general said prosecutors did not elect to seek capital charges of treason and were "confident" in going forward with the four-count indictment. But he said charges would be added if new evidence is found.
"The United States does not casually or capriciously charge one of its own citizens with providing support to terrorists," Mr. Ashcroft said in announcing the indictment. "We are compelled to do so today by the inescapable fact of September 11, a day that reminded us in no uncertain terms that we have enemies in the world and that these enemies seek to destroy us.
"We learned on September 11 that our way of life is not immune from attack and even from destruction," he said. "We have not overlooked attacks on America when they were made by foreign nationals. We cannot overlook attacks on America when they come from United States 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," he said.
The attorney general said the charges against Walker recommended by the National Security Council in consultation with the Defense and Justice departments were based on voluntary statements Walker made to FBI agents who questioned him in Afghanistan.
He said that before being questioned, Walker was informed of his Miranda rights; that he acknowledged that he understood his rights; and that he waived them, both verbally and in a signed document.
He said Walker "knowingly and purposely" aligned himself with terrorists and that "his allegiance to those fanatics and terrorists never faltered, not even with the knowledge that they had murdered thousands of his countrymen, not with the knowledge that they were engaged in a war with the United States, and not, finally, in the prison uprising that took the life" of CIA agent Johnny "Mike" Spann.
Mr. Spann had tried unsuccessfully to question Walker moments before the prison uprising that claimed his life.
Walker's parents said last night that they were praying for a "just resolution" of his case.
"We are grateful to live in a nation that presumes innocence and withholds judgment until all of the facts are presented," Marilyn Walker and Frank Lindh said in a statement issued through their attorney.
Mr. Ashcroft said Walker was being transferred from U.S. military custody to FBI agents. No arraignment date has been set.
He said Walker, based on his own statements, joined a paramilitary training camp run by the terrorist group Harkat ul-Mujahedeen and that when his training was completed, he was given a choice to fight with the Islamic guerrilla group in Kashmir or to join the Taliban to fight in Afghanistan. The attorney general said Walker chose the latter.
"Youth is not absolution for treachery, and personal self-discovery is not an excuse to take up arms against your country," Mr. Ashcroft said.
He said Walker went to Afghanistan and presented himself to a Taliban recruitment center, where he said he was "a Muslim who wanted to go to the front lines to fight." He said because Taliban recruiters deemed Walker's language skills insufficient, he was referred to bin Laden's al Qaeda network.
The attorney general said Walker now got seven more weeks of training in weapons, explosives and combat at an al Qaeda camp which bin Laden visited on three to five occasions. "On one of these occasions, Walker met personally with bin Laden, who, according to Walker, thanked him for taking part in jihad," Mr. Ashcroft said.
According to a criminal complaint, when Walker's al Qaeda training was done, he was sent to Kabul with an AKM rifle, and eventually made it to the front line of the battle with the U.S.-backed Northern Alliance in Takhar.
The complaint said Walker told U.S. officials he knew of the September 11 attacks and of bin Laden's having ordered them.
But even with full knowledge, the complaint said, Walker continued to fight for the Taliban.
"Walker faced a choice, and with each choice, he choose to ally himself with terrorists. Drawn to South Asia, Walker chose to train with terrorists. Trained as a terrorist, Walker chose more advanced instructions from al Qaeda. Schooled by al Qaeda, Walker chose to fight on the front lines with America's enemies," Mr. Ashcroft said.
"Our complaint, based on Walker's own words, is very clear: Terrorists did not compel John Walker Lindh to join them; John Walker Lindh chose terrorists."

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