Family of ‘American Taliban’ upset letter hasn’t reached him

By Justin Prichard The Associated Press
Wednesday December 19, 2001

SAN FRANCISCO — The parents of John Walker Lindh, the 20-year-old American captured in Afghanistan alongside Taliban fighters, are upset that a letter they sent him through the Red Cross has not been delivered. 

In a statement released Tuesday, Frank Lindh and Marilyn Walker said they’re growing impatient because the Red Cross told them it has been unable to deliver their Dec. 4 letter of support. 

“It is very painful to think that John has no idea his family is sending him love and support during the most difficult time of his life,” Lindh’s parents said in a statement released by their attorney. 

The family reiterated its hopes the American public will withhold judgment on Lindh, seen by some as a traitor for taking up arms with the Taliban. 

A spokesman for the U.S. war effort had no immediate comment Tuesday on the letter, and questioned how the family knew it had not been delivered. 

Earlier in the day, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz said Lindh is “being treated consistent with the Geneva protections for prisoners of war.” 

Under those rules, prisoners of war are allowed to send and receive letters and cards, which must be conveyed rapidly and cannot be withheld “for disciplinary reasons.” Wolfowitz added, however, that because Lindh “is not a legal combatant ... he’s not legally a prisoner of war.” 

Lindh, of San Anselmo, was found holed up with Taliban fighters after northern alliance forces brought an end to a prison uprising near the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif more than two weeks ago. 

Lindh had been held as a prisoner in a detention center at Camp Rhino, the U.S. Marine base in southern Afghanistan. Late last week, he was flown to the USS Peleliu, the lead ship of a military unit off the coast of Pakistan. 

“We understand that there are many American parents who are concerned about the welfare of their children, especially at this time of year,” Lindh’s family said. “We continue to hope that the government will allow us access to John so that he knows his family loves him and wants to help him through this period.” 

The U.S. government has not yet determined whether Lindh’s case falls under the jurisdiction of military or civilian justice. 

“We are encouraged that President Bush and other administration officials have said that no conclusions should be reached about John until all of the facts are known,” the statement said. “We hope that all Americans will also withhold judgment until we know what all the facts are.”