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Lindh was disillusioned with Taliban after September attacks, defense argues

Updated:
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) _ American John Walker Lindh wanted to leave his fellow Taliban fighters after learning of the Sept. 11 attacks, but did not go for fear he would be killed, his lawyers say.

Lindh told U.S. military interrogators about his disillusionment, and summaries of his December statements mention those fears, the lawyers said in a federal court motion filed Friday. The defense is seeking complete notes of the interrogation.

Lindh is being held in jail in northern Virginia, charged with conspiracy to murder U.S. nationals, supporting terrorist organizations and using weapons during crimes of violence. Three of the 10 counts carry maximum life terms and the others have a maximum of 90 years in prison. Lindh, brought back to the United States by military aircraft Jan. 23, has pleaded innocent.

The motion maintained that when new summaries of the same military interviews were made in January, they omitted those statements. His lawyers said the statements could have been viewed as favorable to Lindh.

By January, it said, ``Mr. Lindh's case was the subject of frequent negative public commentary by government officials, intense media coverage and almost daily public opinion polls.'' Only incomplete summaries were provided the defense.

``The December summaries ... report that Mr. Lindh was obviously disillusioned when he learned of the attacks on the World Trade Center and wanted to leave his Taliban unit but could not do so for fear of death,'' the motion said.

The indictment had alleged that Lindh stayed in an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan after he was told that Osama bin Laden sent some 50 people to carry out 20 suicide terrorism operations against the United States and Israel.

The motion filed Friday said any such information provided by Lindh ``was conjecture and assumption based on what he had heard from others.''

The defense also sought access to an unidentified CIA official who was with slain CIA officer Johnny Micheal Spann when Spann was killed during a prison uprising in Afghanistan. Lindh was at the prison during the riot but contends he had nothing to do with planning it or with Spann's death.

``The government's privilege to withhold the identity of a confidential source must be weighed against a defendant's right to prepare his defense,'' the motion said.

The defense also sought access to Taliban and al-Qaida prisoners held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who may have any information on Lindh's activities as a Taliban soldier.

``There is reason to believe that several of these individuals ... were repeatedly questioned by the government about the allegations against Mr. Lindh,'' the motion said.

Federal prosecutors must respond to the written motion by March 29, and a hearing will be held April 1 in U.S. District Court.

The lawyers sought any documents on treatment of prisoners in Afghanistan by U.S.-backed Afghan forces, ``including the execution or torture of such prisoners, between approximately Nov. 6 and Dec. 7, 2001.''

The defense wants to know about the medical treatment of Lindh, who was wounded in the leg during the uprising, and about his mental condition while in custody.
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