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Attorneys for Taliban fighter
ask Bush to reduce sentence

John Walker Lindh
Photo courtesy Wikipedia.org

By Julia Cheever, Bay City News Service

April 5, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - Lawyers for former Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh of Marin County announced Wednesday they are filing a new petition with President Bush for commutation of his 20-year sentence.

Attorney James Brosnahan said at news conference in San Francisco, "This is a simple cry for justice with regard to one person."

The petition is Lindh's third request for commutation, which could result in a reduction in his sentence. The first two requests were filed in 2004 and 2005. Brosnahan said he never received a response to those petitions.

Lindh, now 26, joined the Taliban in Afghanistan in the summer of 2001 after converting to Islam and was captured there and turned over to the U.S. military in late 2001.

He was the first person to be charged in a U.S. court in the post-Sept. 11 war on terrorism.

Lindh was initially charged with 10 counts but in a plea bargain pleaded guilty in federal court in Virginia in 2002 to two lesser counts of serving in the Taliban army and carrying weapons while doing so. Under the agreement, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Brosnahan said Lindh's sentence was disproportionate with those later received by two other Taliban fighters, Yaser Hamdi and David Hicks, who were also captured in Afghanistan in late 2001.

Hicks, an Australian citizen, was given a suspended seven-year sentence by a military tribunal last week and will be allowed to serve most of his remaining nine months in custody in Australia.

Hamdi, originally an American citizen, was allowed to renounce his citizenship and move to Saudia Arabia in 2004 after three years of being held as an enemy combatant.

Brosnahan said, "It's very simple. It's a question of proportionality and the religious experience John Lindh had."

The attorney said Lindh never fought American troops, thought he was aiding the Taliban in a civil war against the Afghan Northern Alliance and was not convicted of any terrorist charges.

Under government procedures, commutation petitions are sent to the U.S. Department of Justice, which reviews the request and makes a recommendation to the president. Brosnahan said the new petition will be mailed to both the department and the president.

Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said, "We have no immediate comment."

Brosnahan said the new petition has "updated information," but said he could not reveal the details.

Lindh is now being held in a maximum security prison in Florence, Colo., and is not allowed to communicate with the media. Brosnahan said Lindh is a "model prisoner" but said he could give no further information.

Lindh's mother, Marilyn Walker, said, "John has been in prison more than five years and it's time for him to come home."

Brosnahan said the 20-year sentence was the best plea bargain Lindh could obtain at the traumatic time following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, but said he believes the atmosphere has now changed.

"That is why we keep asking for this. The president should issue a commutation and we hope that either this president or some other president will do that," the attorney said.

Copyright © 2007 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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