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John Walker Lindh Part II (Lindh goes to court)

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ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (CNN) -- American Taliban soldier John Walker Lindh made his first U.S. court appearance Thursday -- saying he understood the charges that he conspired to kill his fellow Americans in Afghanistan.


When asked by U.S. Magistrate Judge W. Curtis Sewell whether he understood the charges, Walker Lindh responded, "Yes, I do," and when asked if he understood that if convicted he could be sentenced to life in prison, he said, "Yes, I understand."


Walker Lindh, whose hearing lasted about 15 minutes, also told the court he accepts the legal team hired by his parents to defend him. Before the hearing he was allowed to meet with his parents for the first time since returning Wednesday night from Kandahar, Afghanistan.


The 20-year-old convert to Islam has gone by the name of John Walker, his mother's last name, but is referred to as John Walker Lindh by court documents and all principals in the case.


Looking gaunt, Walker Lindh glanced around the courtroom when he entered, and did not look at his parents during the proceedings, CNN's Susan Candiotti reported.


His father, Frank Lindh, said he met with his son for 45 minutes before his court appearance.


After leaving the courthouse Lindh told reporters, "We're very grateful to see that John is in very good physical condition. We were troubled that he didn't have medical treatment until he was transferred to the Navy ship."


He added, "John loves America. We love America. John did not do anything against America. John did not take up arms against America. He never meant to harm any American, and he never did harm any American. John is innocent of these charges."


John Walker Lindh's mother, Marilyn Walker, added that it had been two years since she had seen her son.


"It was wonderful to see him this morning. My love for him is unconditional and absolute, and I am grateful to God that he has been brought home to his family," she said. She and Walker Lindh's father are divorced.


Walker Lindh will be held at the Alexandria Detention Center until a preliminary hearing set for February 6. During that period, prosecutors may seek a grand jury indictment.


James Brosnahan, the lead lawyer for the defense who met with his client for the first time just before the hearing, complained to the court that his client had been denied legal representation since he began asking for it around December 1, soon after he was captured.


"For 54 days, the United States government has kept John Lindh away from a lawyer. He began requesting a lawyer almost immediately, which would have been December 2nd or 3rd," Brosnahan told reporters after the hearing. "For 54 days, he was held incommunicado."


During that time, the attorney charged, government officials leaked or stated their understanding of the evidence in violation of court rules, Brosnahan said.


"This court has a rule that many courts have which prohibits people like federal officials from commenting on the evidence in a way that will prejudice the defendant," Brosnahan added.


U.S. Attorney John Ashcroft has said Walker Lindh waived his rights to an attorney both orally and in writing during interrogation sessions.


Prosecutor Paul McNulty, also addressing reporters after the hearing, refused to address the issues raised by Brosnahan, but said the criminal complaint filed in the case indicates Walker Lindh waived the right to counsel when he talked to the FBI.


"We're going to make sure as best we possibly can -- and I have great confidence -- that we will afford every right that is present under the law," McNulty said.


Brosnahan said he had been asking to see his client since December 3. He also said that under a Supreme Court case, Walker should have had an arraignment 48 hours after the charges were made.


"The charges were made last Tuesday. This is the following week. There's been no arraignment," Brosnahan said.


The attorney said the family received a letter hours earlier from their son, dated January 8.


"It is comforting to know that you have found a lawyer," Walker Lindh wrote.


Walker Lindh arrived at the courthouse about two hours before the 9 a.m. hearing under tight security.


"We're trying to prepare for every contingency," said John Hackman of the U.S. Marshals Service. "... It may be something from citizens who might not particularly care for Mr. Walker. There's a multitude of threats that we're preparing for."


Walker Lindh is charged with four criminal counts: two of providing material support or resources to terrorists organizations, including al Qaeda, one of conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals abroad and one of engaging in transactions with the Taliban, the ousted regime in Afghanistan.


If convicted, he could face life imprisonment. However, Attorney General John Ashcroft has said the United States could seek additional charges that could carry the death penalty.


The criminal complaint alleges Walker Lindh learned this past summer from one of his instructors at a terrorist training camp that Osama bin Laden "had sent people to the United States to carry out several suicide operations." The complaint also alleges Walker Lindh received personal thanks from bin Laden for "taking part in jihad."


The detention center where Walker Lindh is being held is the same facility housing Zacarias Moussaoui, the first suspect charged in the September 11 terrorist attacks. There also are about a dozen suspects other held there who were arrested as part of the terror investigation.


Walker Lindh's return to the United States comes two years after he left the country as a teen-ager for Yemen to study Arabic and Islam -- a journey that the U.S. government alleges eventually took him to al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan.


Walker Lindh was taken into custody by the U.S. military after a bloody prison uprising, which began November 25 in northern Afghanistan. During that uprising, CIA operative Mike Spann was killed.


Spann had interviewed Walker shortly before the uprising, but Walker Lindh never responded to his questions. According to the criminal complaint, Walker Lindh said he did not see what happened to Spann when the prisoners revolted.


Walker Lindh spent weeks on the USS Bataan, a Navy warship in the North Arabian Sea, being interrogated by U.S. investigators before he was transferred from the ship to a U.S. military post at the Kandahar airport. From there he flew to the United States, a U.S. military source said.


Shortly after the Afghanistan prison uprising, Walker Lindh was interviewed by CNN from his hospital bed and said "jihad is exactly what I thought it would be." Asked if it was the right cause, Walker Lindh said, "Definitely."


Walker Lindh was administered morphine by a physician late in the CNN interview.



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john walker joined the the taliban at the same time our governemnt gave them 43 million dollars.

yet he's a traitor and were not? as if we didnt know what the taliban was up to and capable of?


im not defending dude, as much as i am simply pointing out the hypocritical catastrophy that happens anytime our government starts pointing fingers.

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