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Walker Lindh attorneys request trial delay

Request follows government postponement of document turnover

Walker Lindh
Walker Lindh  

From CNN Correspondent Jonathan Aiken

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (CNN) -- Lawyers for John Walker Lindh, the so-called "American Taliban," have asked a federal judge to delay the start of his trial because the government postponed turning over documents to them despite a court-imposed schedule.

Walker Lindh, the 21-year-old Californian accused of conspiring to harm Americans through his support and activities with the Taliban, is scheduled to go on trial August 26.

But in papers filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria on Wednesday, Walker Lindh's attorneys are asking Judge T.S. Ellis to delay the trial date until September 16 -- if he agrees to a government request for a three-week delay in handing over discovery materials. The original deadline was Tuesday.

Defense attorneys say they need more time to review government-supplied evidence and interview witnesses.

Their request comes after federal prosecutors sought an extension of the time they have to complete the discovery process -- where the government outlines the shape of its case through a presentation of potential evidence and witnesses -- earlier in the week.


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Indictment  (U.S. v. Walker Lindh)
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Walker Lindh's attorneys object to the extension, saying federal prosecutors have had five months to prepare their case.

The defense team also argues that if discovery is extended until May 14, as the government wants, its client would only have three days before facing a deadline to file motions in response to the government's case.

In addition to that deadline, Walker Lindh's attorneys say they need more time to review what they described as "hundreds of pages of classified documents" produced by the prosecution within the past week.

The defense says it has plans to interview up to 50 witnesses in the military and what Lindh's lawyers call witnesses "under government control" and argue more time is needed to complete that process.

Ellis has been reluctant to delay the trial date, despite protests from Walker Lindh's attorneys they might be starting their defense close to the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

Federal prosecutors, meanwhile, have updated the court on their efforts to cooperate with the defense as they seek to interview military and government personnel who had contact with Walker Lindh during various stages of his detention.

In a filing today, prosecutors note that of 77 military and FBI employees the defense team is seeking to interview, 75 have been contacted and asked if they wish to participate.

Of that number, 24 have agreed to be interviewed, the remainder have not.

Prosecutors say even though many of those sought by defense counsel are outside the United States, it will work to ensure the defense gets to interview every one it seeks to, during the month of May.




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