The lawyer and parents of American-born Taliban soldier John Walker Lindh asked President Bush on Wednesday to commute his 20-year prison...
SAN FRANCISCO — The lawyer and parents of American-born Taliban soldier John Walker Lindh asked President Bush on Wednesday to commute his 20-year prison term, citing the case of an Australian man who was sentenced to less than a year for aiding terrorism.
Lindh, 26, was captured in Afghanistan in November 2001 by U.S. forces sent to topple the Taliban after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He was charged with conspiring to kill Americans and support terrorists but in a plea deal with federal prosecutors in 2002, all terrorism charges were dropped. In the end, Lindh pleaded guilty to being a soldier for the Taliban and carrying a rifle and hand grenades while doing so.
On Saturday, Australian David Hicks pleaded guilty to supporting terrorism and acknowledged aiding al-Qaida during the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan. He was sentenced to nine months in prison.
Lindh’s lawyer and father said the lighter sentence given to Hicks should be reflected in Lindh’s case.
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“It is a question of proportionality. It is a question of fairness, and it is a question of the religious experience John Walker Lindh had,” attorney James Brosnahan said. “And it was not in any way directed at the United States.”
Lindh converted to Islam and went to Afghanistan to fight for the Taliban against the Northern Alliance, which received U.S. backing.
Brosnahan brokered Lindh’s plea deal and said it was the best he could do in the political climate immediately after the 2001 attacks. Lindh, 26, is incarcerated at the federal supermax prison in Florence, Colo.
“In the atmosphere of the time, the best John could get was a plea bargain and a 20-year sentence,” said Lindh’s father, Frank Lindh. “We love our son very much. He was wrongly accused when he was found in Afghanistan.”
Meanwhile, Hicks a 31-year-old former kangaroo skinner is likely to be transferred to a prison in Australia within weeks.
The White House referred telephone calls to the Justice Department, which declined to comment because it had not received Lindh’s petition.