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Monday, 15 July, 2002, 18:24 GMT 19:24 UK
US Taleban fighter pleads guilty
Footage of John Walker Lindh being interrogated by a CIA agent in Afghanistan
Lindh (l) was interrogated by a CIA agent in Afghanistan
The "American Taleban" John Walker Lindh, who was captured in Afghanistan, has pleaded guilty to some of the charges against him as part of a deal to avoid a possible life sentence.


I provided my services as a soldier to the Taleban last year from August to December

John Walker Lindh
In court on Monday, Mr Lindh, 21, admitted he had aided the Taleban and carried explosives in the commission of a felony.

Under the terms of his deal with prosecutors, he will serve two 10-year prison sentences and co-operate fully in the investigation of Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

Government officials said President George W Bush approved the outlines of the plea deal last week.

Mr Lindh waived his right to trial, and a sentencing date of 4 October has been set.

Last week Yaser Esam Hamdi, another US-born man captured in Afghanistan who is being held in Virginia, was refused access to lawyers.

Admission

"I provided my services as a soldier to the Taleban last year from August to December", Mr Lindh told the court in Virginia.

"In the course of doing so, I carried a rifle and two grenades. I did so knowingly and willingly, knowing it was illegal."

Asked by Judge T S Ellis whether he wished to waive his right to a trial, John Walker Lindh, responded: "Yes, sir".


He will now spend the next 20 years in prison - nearly as long as he has been alive

Attorney General John Ashcroft

Mr Lindh was captured late last year in northern Afghanistan but originally pleaded not guilty to the 10 charges against him, which included conspiracy to murder US citizens.

Three of the counts carried maximum terms of life imprisonment.

The surprise announcement that there would be a guilty plea came as the court was to begin a hearing to consider whether statements made by Mr Lindh shortly after being taken into custody could be excluded from trial.

The BBC's security correspondent, Frank Gardner, says Mr Lindh has never been thought of as a big player in the Taleban or al-Qaeda so the interest in him is primarily because he is a white American.

But, our correspondent adds, the fact that the son of a well-to-do Californian family became a convert to radical Islam serves as a further reminder to the US authorities that their enemy comes in many guises.

Even more interestingly, he says, Arab commentators have pointed out that if John Walker Lindh has apparently met Osama Bin Laden, then perhaps it is not so hard for a Westerner to get close to al-Qaeda's inner circle.

Hearings

Prosecutors welcomed Mr Lindh's change of plea.

John Walker Lindh
John Walker Lindh: Converted to lslam at 16

Paul J McNulty, chief prosecutor in the case, described it as an "important victory for the American people in the battle against terrorism".

The deal was also hailed by Attorney General John Ashcroft, who said: "He will now spend the next 20 years in prison - nearly as long as he has been alive."

Last month, a US court rejected a motion to have the case against Mr Lindh dropped or moved to another court.

His lawyers had argued that charges against him ignored his constitutional rights.

They also said he could not receive a fair trial in the state of Virginia because of the proximity of the Pentagon, where more than 100 people died in the 11 September suicide attack.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Tom Carver
"This would have been the first terrorist trial since September 11"
The BBC's Alex van Wel reports
"At 16 [Walker Lindh] declared his intention to convert to Islam"

Key stories

European probe

Background

IN DEPTH
See also:

15 Jul 02 | Americas
12 Jul 02 | Americas
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05 Apr 02 | Americas
24 Jan 02 | Americas
16 Jan 02 | Americas
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