American Taliban ready to cooperate as promised, lawyer says


Sunday, July 21st 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6



WASHINGTON (AP) _ John Walker Lindh is ready to cooperate with terrorism investigators, as he promised to do in return for a lighter sentence, but he may have little information to give, his lawyer said Sunday.

Lindh, the young Californian captured by American forces in Afghanistan, pleaded guilty a week ago to fighting alongside the Taliban militia. In return, prosecutors dropped the most serious charges against him.

James Brosnahan, Lindh's chief defense attorney, said Sunday the deal also will allow Lindh to travel on a religious pilgrimage to the Muslim holy city of Mecca after his release.

Lindh, 21, is expected to receive a 20-year prison sentence in October. The Muslim convert has agreed to submit to questioning by government interrogators, take lie-detector tests and testify in trials.

``The fact is he doesn't know a whole lot, but he will cooperate with them fully. If he can save American lives, he will do it,'' Brosnahan said on CNN's ``Late Edition.''

Before the plea agreement, Lindh faced charges including conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals that could have sent him to prison for life. He pleaded guilty to providing services to Afghanistan's former rulers, the Taliban militia, and an explosives charge.

Prosecutors have said they did not know how helpful Lindh would be for America's war on terrorism.

``The truth is being a soldier in the Taliban army up in the district of Takhar doesn't let you in on much really valuable information,'' Brosnahan said on CNN.

Lindh, from a middle-class family in Marin County, Calif., was captured with other Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan in December. He told military interrogators he once met suspected al-Qaida terror mastermind Osama bin Laden.

Brosnahan has portrayed Lindh as a peaceful, devout Muslim. He said Sunday that Lindh could be freed for good behavior after serving 17 years, before his 40th birthday.

The deal will allow Lindh to travel to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on the hajj, a pilgrimage that all able-bodied Muslims who can afford it are expected to make at least once in their lifetimes.

``John wished to do that. The government understood that, and we entered into terms which would allow him to do that. It's purely a religious matter,'' his lawyer said.

Brosnahan said Lindh's family hoped he would be assigned to a federal prison in northern California so he can be close to relatives _ and that his safety will be protected.

``Steps will be taken, I'm strongly hopeful, that will secure John in the years ahead,'' Brosnahan said.