American Taliban lawyers win little info in court
ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (CNN) -- Attorneys for John Walker Lindh met with little success Monday in their push for more information from federal prosecutors related to the case against the accused American Taliban.
After a hearing that lasted much of the day, U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III ruled that many of the defense requests for evidence were too broad.
He also agreed to preserve the anonymity of a confidential government source and refused to give Walker Lindh's attorneys access to e-mails exchanged by Justice Department officials.
Ellis did tell prosecutors to ask military officials whether they would let al Qaeda detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, be interviewed by the defense team. But he did not mandate that the defense get access to them.
Walker Lindh, 21, who was taken into U.S. custody in late November after being found at a prison in Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan, is charged with conspiring to murder U.S. nationals, providing support to terrorist organizations and using firearms and destructive devices during crimes of violence.
During Monday's hearing, prosecutors acknowledged they would not provide evidence that Walker Lindh, while fighting for al Qaeda in Afghanistan, ever fired at an American, particularly during a prison uprising in which CIA operative Michael Spann was killed.
But Ellis noted that because the government alleges only that Walker Lindh was part of the conspiracy, it does not have to prove that he killed Spann.
The judge also denied a defense motion for a detailed list of the names of the people Walker Lindh was allegedly targeting in the murder conspiracy.
"Do you think Mohammed Atta knew the names of the people in the World Trade Center? ... Do you think any terrorist cares who they kill?" Ellis said, his voice raised. He was referring to the man believed to have been the ringleader of the September 11 hijackers.
Walker Lindh's attorneys contend U.S. officials have destroyed evidence, including pictures and videotapes, that could show how their client was treated after being captured.
To bolster their claim, they submitted a photograph showing Walker Lindh naked, blindfolded and strapped to a stretcher.
The defense team said the photo, taken at Camp Rhino in Afghanistan where he was held by the U.S. military, shows Walker Lindh was tortured -- a claim prosecutors dismissed as "completely at odds with the actual facts."
Defense claims of mistreatment are laying the groundwork for an expected battle over whether to allow Walker Lindh's confession in the trial.
The prosecution's case is based largely on his admissions that he trained at al Qaeda camps and fought with the Taliban -- admissions the defense will try to suppress.
In court filings, prosecutors conceded that Walker Lindh wasn't always held under ideal conditions. But they said his predicament was the result of "his own terrible choices" in going to Afghanistan, not any action by U.S. officials.
During Monday's hearing, Walker Lindh, looking heavier and with longer hair than during earlier court appearances, quietly watched the proceedings, occasionally conferring with his lawyers.
His parents also attended the session and left the courthouse without comment afterward.
-- CNN Correspondent Deborah Feyerick contributed to this report.
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