- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 28, 2004

From combined dispatches

John Walker Lindh, the “American Taliban,” yesterday asked President Bush to commute his 20-year prison sentence for aiding the Taliban.

His attorney, James Brosnahan, said the sentence should be reduced because Yaser Esam Hamdi, another American citizen captured in Afghanistan on suspicion of aiding the Taliban, is being released after three years’ detention as an enemy combatant.

Lindh, 23, was captured in 2001 during the Afghanistan war and was sentenced in 2002 under a plea deal.

“Comparable conduct should be treated in comparable ways in terms of sentencing,” Mr. Brosnahan said at a press conference.

A Justice Department spokesman contrasted the Lindh and Hamdi cases.

“John Walker Lindh pleaded guilty in a court of law to supporting the Taliban,” Mark Corallo said. “The Taliban was a brutal regime which harbored and assisted al Qaeda. Mr. Lindh pleaded guilty to these charges with his lawyers standing beside him. He was sentenced accordingly.

“Mr. Hamdi never was in the criminal-justice system,” he added.

Mr. Brosnahan, asked why he agreed to a deal that put his client in jail for 20 years only to appeal two years later for a lesser sentence, cited the national climate of fear after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Under his plea deal, Lindh was spared a maximum sentence of life in prison and all terrorism charges against him were dropped. In exchange, he pleaded guilty to two charges of aiding the Taliban and carrying explosives and agreed to cooperate with authorities and be interrogated.

Mr. Hamdi has been in U.S. military custody since his November 2001 capture and was accused of fighting for the Taliban militia that had harbored Osama bin Laden.

Mr. Hamdi will not be charged with any crime under an agreement with federal officials made public on Monday. Mr. Hamdi will be required to give up his American citizenship and will be sent to Saudi Arabia, where he grew up.

“I hope America can find it in her heart to forgive John,” Lindh’s mother, Marilyn Walker, told a press conference. “John has admitted he made a mistake when he went to Afghanistan in June 2001 to fight in the civil war between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance.

“Despite what people may think, John Lindh took no action whatsoever against his native country.”

Mr. Brosnahan said Lindh was a young man in the wrong place at the wrong time. He said that Lindh was fighting alongside the Taliban in a civil war against the Northern Alliance, that he is not a terrorist and that he never fought U.S. troops.

The White House did not respond to requests for comment.

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