The father of John Walker Lindh, the young American who was captured in Afghanistan after 9/11 and sentenced to prison for aiding the Taliban against U.S. troops, said he is proud of his son for fighting in court today for the right to pray with other Muslim prisoners.
"I was really proud of John," Frank Lindh told ABCNews.com. "Today he did such a good job of explaining the daily prayer. It was a really well informed testimony. It shows how much depth of knowledge he has about Islam."
John Lindh, who pleaded guilty to helping the Taliban and carrying explosives, testified in court today that a prison policy limiting group prayer has forced him to sin.
Lindh, 31, is suing prison officials for the right to pray five times a day with fellow Islamic inmates instead of praying alone in his cell.
"I believe it's obligatory," Lindh said in court, the Associated Press reported. "If you're required to do it in congregation and you don't, then that's a sin."
Lindh is being held in the Communications Management Unit in Terre Haute, Ind., where he is serving a 20-year sentence for supplying services to the Taliban and carrying an explosive during the commission of a felony.
"I am a Muslim and my religion requires that I perform five daily prayers in congregation. This is mandatory and not optional," Lindh wrote in a handwritten complaint to prison officials that was also filed in federal court.
A ban on daily group prayer was instituted in 2007 after Muslim inmates ignored a lockdown caused by a fire alarm, court documents stated. Inmates are free to pray in their individual cells.
Every Friday, Lindh and his fellow inmates in the specialized unit, are permitted to gather in the multipurpose room of the prison for the Jum'ah prayer service, which the Koran dictates must be done in a group, court documents stated.
The Communications Management Unit, which was established in 2006, has been referred to as "Guantanamo North." Inmates whose communications are considered "high risk" to the prison community and the public's security are housed in individual cells within the unit, according to the Bureau of Prisons website.
Lindh's lawsuit offered a glimpse inside the unit, where communications between prisoners and their visitors are tightly monitored.
Inmates in the unit are "out of their cells for virtually the entire day and are allowed to engage in a whole variety of congregate activities," court documents stated. However group prayer is prohibited.
Amos Guiora, a professor of law at the University of Utah who teaches religion and terrorism courses, said daily group prayers in the unit are unlikely to be a terrorism concern.
"I don't think it raises security concerns, but if it goes beyond the text of the prayer than I can understand how it could be seen as a security question," Guiora said.
The daily prayers typically take "only a few minutes," according to Lindh's lawsuit.
Frank Lindh said he and John's mother take turns each month commuting from their homes in California to visit their son in Terre Haute, which is 70 miles from Indianapolis.
He said he gets a 15-minute phone call from his son every Wednesday, while John's mother gets a call every Sunday.
"It's a very safe environment for John. I'm sorry he's in prison but this is the best circumstance, that he is not in the general population," the elder Lindh said.
John Walker Lindh, who converted to Islam as a teenager, was captured in Afghanistan on Nov. 25, 2001.
During his sentencing, he condemned terrorism and said he made a "mistake" joining the Taliban.
"Although I thought I knew a good deal about the Taliban when I went to the front line, it's clear to me now that there were many things of which I was not aware," he said.
At the end of his testimony today, Lindh was placed in chains and transported back to Terre Haute. On Tuesday, he will be provided with a video link so he can still be present during proceedings in his case, his father said.
Lindh is eligible for release in 2019.
- Politics & Government
- Religion & Beliefs
- John Walker Lindh