Lindh’s lawyers say he only spoke to FBI agents to escape prison conditions

By Larry Margasak, The Associated Press
Saturday March 23, 2002

ALEXANDRIA, Va.— An American who fought with the Taliban spoke with the FBI in Afghanistan only to escape horrible prison conditions, his lawyers said Friday. 

The assertion by John Walker Lindh’s defense team is the latest challenge to potentially incriminating statements he made during captivity, especially in FBI interviews Dec. 9 and 10. 

Lindh’s responses to the FBI formed a major portion of the indictment against him. 

Lindh, 21, is charged with conspiring to kill Americans, providing support to terrorists, including Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida, and using firearms during crimes of violence. Three of the 10 charges carry a maximum life sentence and the other seven could bring an additional 90 years in prison. 

The defense team contended in written motions that U.S. authorities told Lindh no lawyers were available to him in Afghanistan. By that time, his parents already had hired counsel in the United States and so informed U.S. officials. 

Lindh was blindfolded and held in a metal container last December, the defense said. 

“When his blindfold was removed, he was greeted by an FBI agent who was facing him,” the motion said. “Mr. Lindh believed that the only way to escape the torture of his current circumstance was to do whatever the FBI agent wanted. Only at this point did Mr. Lindh allegedly waive his rights and answer the agent’s questions.” 

The defense also sought 33 secret documents that, Lindh’s lawyers suspect, are e-mails sent among Justice Department officials during his captivity. The documents were filed secretly by the government and are identified only by date, time, sender and recipient, the defense said. 

In addition, the defense team released letters from Lindh’s parents, Frank Lindh and Marilyn Walker, expressing their support for their son. 

“I have retained a lawyer to help you. Please ask the U.S. authorities to allow me, moma and the lawyer to come visit you as soon as possible,” Frank Lindh wrote on Dec. 4. 

On Dec. 18, Lindh’s father wrote: “We did get your message dated December 3 — my birthday. You have our unconditional love and complete support. We are begging to get to see you. Trust in God! 

“P.S. We’ve hired a lawyer who also wants to see you.” 

Lindh’s mother last wrote Jan. 3. 

“You’ve been through so much! I just want to see you and hold you, hear your voice,” she said. “James Brosnahan is the attorney we have retained to represent you and he already has been at work.”