Accessibility links

'American Taleban' Loses Key Court Rulings in Criminal Trial - 2002-06-17

John Walker Lindh, the young American captured while fighting with the Taleban last year, suffered a series of legal setbacks Monday. A federal judge rejected arguments from Mr. Lindh's attorneys that the charges against him be dropped and also rejected a request that his trial be held somewhere other than in northern Virginia.

During oral arguments Monday, defense attorneys argued that, at a minimum, the trial of John Walker Lindh should be moved out of northern Virginia. They contend their client could not get a fair trial in a federal courthouse located only a few kilometers away from the Pentagon, one of the targets of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Defense attorneys for Mr. Lindh fear there will be little sympathy among jurors who will be drawn from northern Virginia, an area where many defense department workers live.

But Federal Judge T. S. Ellis sided with prosecutors who said they believe the jurors eventually selected will be as fair-minded as anywhere else in the country and that there is no reason to shift the trial to another venue.

The judge also rejected defense arguments that the government's case against John Walker Lindh amounts to selective prosecution. Lawyers for Mr. Lindh say prosecutors are trying to build a case of what they called "guilt by association" and that their client had a constitutional right to associate with the Taleban.

Prosecutors responded to that by saying their case is not about associations but about criminal acts allegedly committed by John Walker Lindh.

Mr. Lindh faces ten criminal counts including charges of conspiring to kill Americans and providing support to the Taleban and al-Qaida. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Judge Ellis also turned down a defense argument that John Walker Lindh should be considered a lawful combatant who has the right to claim combat immunity under international law.

Prosecutors say their case is based on the fact that President Bush declared Taleban fighters unlawful combatants following the September 11 terrorist attacks and that the government is justified in filing criminal charges against Mr. Lindh.

Jury selection in the Lindh trial is scheduled to begin in August.