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US Expands Charges Against 'American Taleban' - 2002-02-05

John Walker Lindh was indicted by a federal grand jury in Virginia Tuesday on charges of conspiring to kill fellow Americans in Afghanistan and providing support to terrorist organizations.

The announcement of the ten-count criminal indictment against John Walker Lindh was made in Washington by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.

"As today's indictment sets out, John Walker Lindh chose to train with al-Qaida, chose to fight with the Taleban, chose to be led by Osama bin Laden," he said. "The reasons for his choices may never be fully known to us, but the fact of these choices is clear. Americans who love their country do not dedicate themselves to killing Americans."

The indictment handed up by a federal grand jury supercedes the criminal complaint filed against Mr. Lindh by the Justice Department in December.

In addition to charges of conspiring to kill Americans and supporting terrorist groups, the grand jury indictment added new charges including conspiracy to supply services to both al-Qaida and the Taleban.

If convicted of these charges, Mr. Lindh could be sentenced to life in prison.

The indictment includes additional details about Mr. Lindh's time in Afghanistan, including training in an al-Qaida terrorist camp in Afghanistan that the government says began as early as last May.

Attorney General Ashcroft says the indictment also charges that Mr. Lindh chose to remain with Taleban and al-Qaida fighters even though he knew who was responsible for the September 11 terrorist attacks.

"In the weeks after September 11, the indictment charges that Walker Lindh remained with his Taleban fighting group," he said. "He remained despite having learned of the terrorist attacks on his homeland, despite knowing that Osama bin Laden was responsible for those attacks and despite the knowledge that additional terrorist attacks and acts were planned."

Lawyers for Mr. Lindh filed court papers Tuesday contending that their client never intended to harm civilians or engage in combat with U.S. forces. They also asked that their client be released pending trial, arguing that he is not a risk to flee. Prosecutors are expected to strongly argue against that during a hearing Wednesday.

The Justice Department has said that much of the evidence against Mr. Lindh comes from his own statements to investigators.

But Mr. Lindh's attorneys are expected to challenge those statements and have already said their client asked to see a lawyer long before he was allowed to do so.