Feds to Lighten up on “American Taliban” Lindh

The U.S. Justice Department announced Wednesday it is easing communication restrictions on John Walker Lindh, a Marin County man convicted of aiding the Taliban in Afghanistan as a foot solider in 2001.

Department spokesman Dean Boyd said restrictions limiting the people with whom Lindh can be in contact will expire Friday.

Lindh, 28, is now serving a 20-year sentence in a medium-security federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., for supplying his services to the Taliban and carrying a weapon while doing so.

Lindh, a convert to Islam, joined the Taliban in Afghanistan in the summer of 2001 and was captured late that year. He pleaded guilty to the two counts in federal court in Virginia in 2002.

Boyd said Lindh is expected to be released on May 23, 2019, with credit for good conduct while in prison.

He said the restrictions, known as special administrative measures, were initially imposed by former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft under a policy allowing limits on contacts for inmates considered violent or a danger to national security.

Since then, Boyd said, "as the change in the perceived threat of Lindh's communications diminished, his special administrative measures have been relaxed in recent years.

"We can confirm that the special administrative measures applying to Mr. Lindh are now scheduled to expire on Friday," Boyd said.

The spokesman said he could not disclose what the restrictions were.

Lindh was the first person to be accused of terrorism-related charges in a U.S. court following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and was initially accused of 10 counts, including conspiring to kill American citizens and aiding Al Qaeda.

But federal prosecutors later dropped the terrorism-related charges when he pleaded guilty to the two lesser charges. 

Lindh said at the time of his sentencing that he never intended to fight Americans and never did so, but rather intended to help Muslims in Afghanistan fight against the Northern Alliance in that country.

Lindh asked former President George W. Bush five times, beginning in 2004, to commute, or reduce his sentence, citing lesser sentences given to others later convicted of similar charges.

Boyd said Bush denied the commutation petition on Jan. 19, the day before leaving office. He said Lindh would have to file a new petition with President Obama if he wishes to continue the plea for a reduction in his prison term.

Lawyers for Lindh were not immediately available for comment.

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