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'American Taleban' to Remain in Jail - 2002-02-06

A federal judge has turned down a request that the man known as the American Taleban fighter, John Walker Lindh, be released from jail, until his trial later this year.

John Walker Lindh's lawyers argued that their 20-year-old client is not a threat to the community and is not a risk to flee federal custody. They wanted him released into the custody of his parents.

But federal Judge Curtis Sewell saw it differently. The judge said no combination of conditions could permit Mr. Lindh's release, and said he has "every incentive to flee."

In opposing bail for John Walker Lindh, prosecutors presented e-mails he wrote to his mother, including one in which he suggested that the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa were carried out by the U.S. government, not Muslims.

On Tuesday, Mr. Lindh was indicted by a federal grand jury on 10 charges, including conspiracy to kill Americans and aiding terrorists. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.

Following Wednesday's hearing, one of Mr. Lindh's lawyers, James Brosnahan, told reporters that he wants U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft to stop commenting on the case. "And we know our people are doing the best that we can to find Osama bin Laden, to find [Taleban leader Mullah Mohammed] Omar and to find someone who sent the anthrax," he said. "We understand they are doing the best they can, and we are with them on that. We hope all of that is successful. But, meanwhile, I would ask the attorney general to not take it out on John Lindh, because in my view - and I am not going to take any questions - in my view, they have brought up the cannon to shoot the mouse."

Attorney General Ashcroft told a Washington news conference Wednesday that the judge made the right decision in not releasing Mr. Lindh on bail. "I would just say that I am pleased with the way the court handled this matter this morning," he said. "We will litigate this matter very seriously. We consider these offenses to be serious, and our approach will be a serious approach."

Prosecutors are expected to build much of their case against John Walker Lindh on his own statements to federal investigators in December. But defense lawyers say they will challenge those statements in court, and will also challenge the charge that Mr. Lindh conspired to kill Americans. They say John Walker Lindh was fighting the anti-Taleban Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, not the United States.