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'American Taleban' Pleads Not Guilty to 10-Count Indictment - 2002-02-13


The young American accused of fighting with the Taleban has entered a plea of not guilty in federal court outside Washington.

John Walker Lindh pleaded not guilty to a 10-count federal indictment that includes conspiracy to kill Americans and aiding al-Qaida terrorists.

Mr. Lindh appeared in a federal courtroom in Alexandria, Virginia, just outside Washington. His attorneys have asked that his trial begin no earlier than mid-November, but the judge indicated he prefers to begin in August or September.

John Walker Lindh was captured in November with Taleban and al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan. Prosecutors are building their case against him largely on his own words.

Federal investigators say Mr. Lindh told them in December that he underwent training at an al-Qaida terrorist camp in Afghanistan prior to the September 11 attacks. They also say he remained alongside Taleban and al-Qaida fighters after September 11 with the intention of killing U.S. troops.

Among those who appeared at Wednesday's hearing was the family of slain CIA officer Michael Spann. He was killed in a prison uprising in Afghanistan in November, shortly after interviewing Mr. Lindh and other Taleban prisoners.

Michael Spann's widow, Shannon Spann, spoke to reporters outside the court. "We are pleased with the charges that the attorney general has laid, and we expect Mr. Walker to be held personally responsible for all of the things that he has done," she said.

If convicted of the charges, John Walker Lindh could spend the rest of his life in prison.

His attorneys are expected to question the confessions he made to federal investigators. They argue that Mr. Lindh made the statements under pressure and that he was denied access to his lawyers for several weeks.

One of his lawyers has also said that Mr. Lindh intended to fight the Northern Alliance, not American troops.

Attorney General John Ashcroft has said that Mr. Lindh was not mistreated while in custody. He also says Mr. Lindh chose to side with the Taleban and al-Qaida, even though he knew that al-Qaida operatives were responsible for the September 11 attacks. The young American accused of fighting with the Taleban has entered a plea of not guilty in federal court outside Washington.

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