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Walker arrives in U.S. to face charges Thursday

Federal officials escort Walker to a detention facility.
Federal officials escort Walker to a detention facility.  

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (CNN) -- John Walker, the American accused of joining al Qaeda and fighting with them in Afghanistan, arrived in the United States Wednesday under FBI custody to face charges he conspired to kill Americans.

Walker, 20, arrived at Washington Dulles International Airport shortly after 6 p.m. aboard a KC-10 cargo plane and was taken by a U.S. Park Police helicopter to a detention facility in northern Virginia, a U.S. government source said.

Less than an hour later, Walker got off the helicopter, his hands and feet shackled, his head shaved, and shuffled his way under heavily armed escort to an awaiting sports utility vehicle that whisked him away.

He is scheduled to appear in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, before U.S. Magistrate Judge W. Curtis Sewell at 9 a.m. ET Thursday to hear the charges read against him.

Lindh:"We're a little disappointed, but the guards did tell us that John was in good health."  

Walker's parents -- Frank Lindh of San Anselmo, California, and Marilyn Walker of Fairfax, California -- went to the detention center to see their son late Wednesday but were told they would have to wait until Thursday.

"We're a little disappointed, but the guards did tell us that John was in good health and we're very glad to hear that," Lindh said.

Under new Justice Department guidelines, government officials can monitor meetings between Walker and his parents.

Brosnahan: "We're going to have to fight like hell to make sure he gets fair treatment here."  

"I think that any parent can under stand their desire ... to see their son," said James Brosnahan, the family's attorney. "We're going to fight like hell to make sure he gets fair treatment here."

Brosnahan said the family received a letter hours earlier from their son dated January 8.

"It is comforting to know that you have found a lawyer," Walker said in the letter, according to Brosnahan. Walker is charged with four criminal counts:

-- Two counts of providing material support or resources to terrorists organizations, including al Qaeda.

-- One count of conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals abroad.

-- One count of engaging in transactions with the Taliban, the ousted regime in Afghanistan.

If convicted of the charges, he could face life imprisonment.

Sheriff's deputies, federal marshals and other law enforcement officers were posted at the Albert V. Bryan U.S. Courthouse.

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"We might have protesters that might come on and we're prepared for that," said John Hackman, deputy chief U.S. marshal for the federal district. "And we might have a situation where we might have people favorable with the Taliban or the al Qaeda who might try to come in and extract him."

Walker was expected to be held at the Alexandria Detention Center because there is no similar federal facility in northern Virginia. The Alexandria jail, just a few blocks from the courthouse, has a contract with the U.S. government to house federal prisoners.

Zacarias Moussaoui, a Frenchman of Moroccan descent who has been charged with conspiracy in the September 11 terrorist attacks, is held at the jail.

Walker spent weeks on the USS Bataan, a Navy warship in the North Arabian Sea, where he was interrogated by U.S. investigators.

The criminal complaint, which refers to him as John Walker Lindh, alleges he learned last summer from one of his instructors at a terrorist training camp that Osama bin Laden "had sent people to the United States to carry out several suicide operations."

The complaint also alleges Walker received personal thanks from bin Laden for "taking part in jihad."

"Our complaint filed last week based on Walker's own words is clear: Terrorists did not compel John Walker Lindh to join them. John Walker Lindh chose terrorists," U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said earlier Wednesday.

"Our American system of justice will allow Walker the rights and due process that the terrorists he fought side by side with sought, and still seek, to destroy."

Interview follows prison uprising

Walker was one of about 80 Taliban fighters who survived a bloody uprising among Taliban prisoners near Mazar-e Sharif in northern Afghanistan.

The Northern Alliance put down the uprising with the aid of U.S. warplanes, but hundreds of prisoners and a CIA agent, Mike Spann, were killed.

Walker was held briefly at U.S. Marine base Camp Rhino, then was transferred December 14 to the USS Peleliu in the Arabian Sea. He later was moved to the USS Bataan.

Robert Young Pelton, the free-lance journalist who taped an interview for CNN with Walker shortly after the prison uprising, predicted Walker will be surprised by how he is viewed in the United States.

"He doesn't feel he's done anything wrong," Pelton said. "Obviously he's about to get a wake-up call when he lands in Virginia."

Pelton, whose interview was cited by the Justice Department in its criminal complaint against Walker, said the young American could provide valuable, although limited, information.

"He had trained and he had fought with these people for over six months, so obviously he knows the inner working of the al Qaeda network, and he also knows the inner working of the Taliban -- but as a foot soldier," Pelton said."I don't consider him a high-ranking military person or a good intelligence source for what bin Laden was doing."

-- CNN national correspondents Susan Candiotti and Elaine Quijano contributed to this report.




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