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Thursday, 24 January, 2002, 15:48 GMT
'American Taleban' appears in court
John Walker Lindh
Walker came to court amid high security
The American suspected of being a Taleban fighter, John Walker Lindh, has made his first appearance in a US court.

He faces charges of conspiring to kill US nationals and aiding Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

Judge W Curtis Sewell read out the charges in a federal courtroom in Alexandria, Virginia - a few kilometres from the Pentagon, which was badly damaged in the 11 September attacks on America.

Charges against Mr Walker

Conspiracy to kill Americans overseas
Supporting foreign terrorist organisations
Transacting with the Taleban
Asked if he understood the charges, Mr Walker replied: "Yes I do, thank you."

If convicted as indicted, Mr Walker could be jailed for life. And US officials have not ruled out further charges, including treason which carries the death penalty.

The 20-year-old Californian was not asked to submit a plea during the hearing, which took place amid tight security.

Mr Walker was remanded in custody until a preliminary hearing on 6 February.

Shaven and thin

The BBC's Michael Buchanan, who was at the hearing, said Mr Walker walked into court unshackled and flanked by two US marshals.


John loves America. We love America

Frank Lindh, Walker's father
He was dressed in a green jumpsuit with the word 'prisoner' on the back.

Mr Walker looked thin. His long hair and beard had been shaved off at his own request before he returned to the United States from Afghanistan, according to the Pentagon.

The suspected Taleban fighter bowed his head and looked at the floor as the judge read the charges against him.

US President George W Bush has said that, as a US citizen, Mr Walker should be tried in a domestic civilian court, rather than by the military tribunals proposed for non-US prisoners taken captive during the war in Afghanistan.

Meeting with parents

US Attorney Paul McNulty said Mr Walker had a private meeting with his parents Frank Lindh and Marilyn Walker before the hearing.

Walker's father, Frank Lindh
Frank Lindh: Standing by his son
The couple had earlier been denied permission to visit their son in jail on Wednesday night.

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Lindh said his son was a patriotic American and innocent of the charges against him.

"John loves America. We love America."

His mother said it was the first time she had seen her son for two years.

"It was wonderful to see him this morning. My love for him is unconditional and absolute."

Mr McNulty said Mr Walker was being provided with the full rights of any defendant, including the right to an attorney.

Militants' camp

Mr Walker, who called himself Abdul Hamid, was captured in November by US forces near the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif during a bloody uprising staged by Taleban prisoners held there.

John Walker Lindh
Mr Walker converted to Islam aged 16
He is alleged to have admitted to CIA interrogators before the uprising that he knew in advance about the 11 September attacks and was personally thanked by Osama Bin Laden for his support.

US investigators have strong reason to believe that the attacks were organised by al-Qaeda, with Bin Laden himself appearing to acknowledge as much in recorded comments.

The US Justice Department accuses Mr Walker of willingly staying in an al-Qaeda camp despite this knowledge.

Mr Walker converted to Islam at the age of 16, and is said to have trained at a Kashmiri militants' camp before joining the Taleban's jihad, or holy war.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Nick Bryant
"If found guilty he'll face the rest of his life in prison"
The BBC's Michael Buchanan
"His legal team is urging people to listen to all the evidence"
See also:

24 Jan 02 | Americas
Profile: John Walker Lindh
18 Jan 02 | Middle East
American Taleban's Yemen connection
16 Jan 02 | Americas
US Taleban suspect 'refused lawyer'
16 Jan 02 | Americas
American Taleban's strange odyssey
14 Dec 01 | Americas
Enigma of American Taleban
05 Dec 01 | Americas
US shocked by American Taleban
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