Lindh treated the same as U.S. soldiers, government says

By Larry Margasak, The Associated Press
Saturday March 30, 2002

WASHINGTON — American-born Taliban John Walker Lindh received the same food and medical care as U.S. soldiers while in custody in Afghanistan, and even slept on a stretcher while his physician made do on a concrete floor, U.S. prosecutors said Friday. 

The government’s written court filing responded to repeated claims by Lindh’s lawyers that their client was all but tortured while in U.S. military custody. 

The defense had argued that incriminating statements Lindh made to interrogators should be thrown out, in part because he was interviewed after being confined in a freezing metal container, bound with circulation-cutting handcuffs and blindfolded. 

The government did acknowledge that conditions in a U.S. military camp in Afghanistan weren’t ideal for anyone. 

However, the United States “had not plucked John Walker Lindh out of the California suburb where he used to live and dropped him into a metal container in the middle of Afghanistan,” the court filing said. 

Lindh entered that country, sought out training at an al-Qaida camp in Afghanistan, learned to use shoulder-fired weapons and grenades and swore allegiance to jihad, or holy war, it said. 

Lindh, 21, of a Marin County suburb just north of San Francisco, is charged with conspiracy to murder U.S. nationals, providing support and services to foreign terrorist organizations and using firearms and destructive devices during crimes of violence. Three of the 10 charges carry a maximum life sentence, and the other seven have maximum prison terms of 90 years. 

Wounded in the leg, Lindh was given “the very same medical treatment provided to wounded United States military personnel,” the filing said. He was fed with the same Meals Ready To Eat as U.S. forces, in the same quantities, and was given warm comforters. 

“While the Navy physician who was treating him had to sleep on a concrete floor in a sleeping bag in a room with a hole in the wall and a hole in the ceiling, Lindh slept on a stretcher in a container that protected him from the elements,” the filing said. 

After he was taken aboard a U.S. military ship, Lindh had a bullet removed by a senior surgeon, received a second haircut when he complained about an earlier one, had his mustache trimmed and was advised of the direction of Mecca so he could say his Muslim prayers, the government contended. 

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III has scheduled a hearing on the defense document requests Monday. The case is in Alexandria, Va., and the filing was released in Washington by the Justice Department.