John Walker Lindh, a young American who had gone to Afghanistan to fight for the Taliban and was captured in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent U.S. invasion of that country, is set to go free from prison this week, The New York Times reported.
After he was captured, Lindh was brought back to the United States and charged with several crimes, including conspiracy to murder U.S. citizens or U.S. nationals and providing material support and resources to terrorist organizations. In 2002, Lindh ended up pleading guilty to two charges and agreeing to a 20-year prison sentence; he will be released under probation after 17 years.
Lindh’s case is unique in that he was captured as an enemy combatant while retaining U.S. citizenship.
The now 38-year-old Lindh will be released under probation, and neither he nor his family has said where he is planning to live. He will be under restrictions, which will include a ban on using the internet or “owning a web-capable device” without permission from a probation officer. He will also be forbidden from traveling abroad.
While he declared at the time of his guilty plea that he renounced terrorist attacks, reports over the years have stated that Lindh has retained radical beliefs throughout his incarceration.
Lindh, who was born in Washington and grew up in California, converted to Islam as a teenager. He first traveled to Yemen, and later to Pakistan and Afghanistan, prior to the 9/11 attacks or the subsequent wars. Lindh is said to have met Osama Bin Laden himself when the late al-Qaeda leader visited a training camp.
After he was captured the first time, Lindh participated in a prison uprising which led to the death of CIA officer Johnny “Mike” Spann, who was the first U.S. casualty of the war in Afghanistan. Spann’s family has loudly objected to Lindh’s release, as have some lawmakers.
NEW: CIA Officer Mike Spann was the first American KIA post-9/11. I spoke with his daughter Alison Spann @newsgirlalison, who blasted the early release of John Walker Lindh, the American Taliban who was part of the prison uprising where her dad was killed.https://t.co/R6dOBj4IeV— Jerry Dunleavy (@JerryDunleavy) May 22, 2019
Republican Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama and Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire are among the members of Congress who have spoken out about Lindh’s release, per The Washington Examiner. Shelby tweeted back in March that President Trump supported his call for John Walker Lindh to serve his full 20-year prison sentence. The president has not addressed the issue recently.
Because he was an American citizen, unlike most foreign fighters captured on the battlefield, Lindh was to be tried in the U.S. court system prior to the plea bargain. Some reports indicated that Lindh was either subject to torture-style interrogation techniques or was not read his rights properly, per The Guardian.