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Tuesday, 18 June, 2002, 05:16 GMT 06:16 UK
Judge rejects 'US Taleban' plea
John Walker Lindh after his return to the US
John Walker Lindh: His jury will be selected in August
A US federal judge has rejected a plea by lawyers representing an American accused of being a Taleban fighter to move the case to a different courthouse or dismiss it altogether.


This defendant can receive a fair trial here as well as elsewhere

Judge T S Ellis
Judge T S Ellis' decision clears the way for the government to proceed with its case against John Walker Lindh on charges that he conspired to kill Americans.

Mr Lindh's lawyers had argued that he could not get a fair trial at a courthouse just over 14 kilometres (9 miles) from the site of the 11 September attack on the Pentagon.

They also defended Mr Lindh's right to associate with the Taleban and suggested he had joined the Afghan militia to serve as a soldier.

Federal prosecutors countered that the defendant had been involved with "violent groups" and argued that a jury sitting in the court in Alexandria, Virginia, would be as objective as any other in the United States.

The judge appeared to agree, ruling that: "This defendant can receive a fair trial here as well as elsewhere."

'20th hijacker' requests

Some of the same concerns have also been raised by Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person to be facing charges directly connected to the 11 September attacks.

Zacarias Moussaoui
Zacarias Moussaoui has handwritten requests for his case to be dismissed
Mr Moussaoui, whom prosecutors say would have been the "20th hijacker" on board planes crashed deliberately in New York and Washington if he had not been arrested, has filed several motions asking for all charges to be dropped or his trial to be moved.

The papers were released by US District Judge Leonie Brinkema in Alexandria, Virginia, who has been handling his case.

She released a total of 15 motions - some of them handwritten in English - as well as appointing a new lawyer for Mr Moussaoui who has said he wants to represent himself.

'Bent on violence'

In his case, George Harris, a lawyer for Mr Lindh, declared: "You can't charge a soldier with murder for simply being a soldier."

'American Taleban'
Born into middle-class, Christian family, converted to Islam at 16
Captured by US forces in Afghanistan while fighting for the Taleban against Afghan rivals
Faces 10 charges including conspiring to kill Americans and providing support to terrorists

The lawyer accused the US Government of building a case against Mr Lindh - arrested in Afghanistan last year - of "guilt by association rather than individual culpability".

His client, he argued, had joined the Taleban to help fight rival Afghan forces and not to help al-Qaeda attack the US.

Another lawyer, James Brosnahan, said the government had deliberately chosen to try Mr Lindh near the Pentagon.

"That is not the environment where John Lindh can get a fair trial," he said.

A jury is due to be selected in late August, meaning that the trial will be under way when the first anniversary of the 11 September attacks occurs.

The defence has been pressing for the trial to be switched to California, where Mr Lindh grew up.

Assistant US Attorney John Davis insisted Mr Lindh's case was "not about association, but about acts of violence with groups bent on violence".


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14 May 02 | Americas
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14 Dec 01 | Americas
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