- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 30, 2002


The Justice Department won't object to a request by the father of slain CIA officer Johnny "Mike" Spann to testify at American Taliban John Walker Lindh's sentencing hearing, department and congressional officials said yesterday.

Attorney General John Ashcroft told Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican, of the decision yesterday during a phone conversation, Justice spokeswoman Barbara Comstock said.

Although he will direct federal prosecutors in the case not to block the request by Johnny Spann to speak, Mr. Ashcroft isn't necessarily encouraging the judge to allow the testimony, Miss Comstock said.

Mr. Spann was killed Nov. 25 in a prison uprising in Afghanistan. His father contends Lindh, questioned by Mr. Spann shortly before the incident, should be held accountable for the death because of his failure to warn Mr. Spann and other Americans of the ambush.

Lindh, who had faced a life prison term for his association with the ousted Afghan government, pleaded guilty July 15 to contributing services to the Taliban and carrying explosives in commission of a felony. In exchange, he can receive no more than a 20-year sentence, a punishment the elder Mr. Spann calls far too lenient.

"I'm glad he's not going to try to block me," Johnny Spann said yesterday of Mr. Ashcroft's decision. "Mike and his family are clearly victims, and we've been treated as victims all along. We'll never win the war on terrorism if this is the way we're going to handle our terrorists when we catch them."

Mr. Sessions, a member of the Judiciary Committee, had been pressuring the attorney general to accept the request by Johnny Spann, from Winfield, Ala.

In a news release, the Republican lawmaker said Mr. Ashcroft told him he would be "pleased" if the sentencing judge honored Johnny Spann's wish, even though he questioned whether Johnny Spann was legally considered a victim who would have the right to testify.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III has scheduled an Oct. 4 sentencing hearing for Lindh and is under no obligation to accept the plea bargain.

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