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Assault on Lindh Probed by FBI

March 07, 2003|Richard A. Serrano | Times Staff Writer

The FBI said Thursday that it is investigating an alleged prison assault on John Walker Lindh, the so-called American Taliban soldier, who was slightly injured when another inmate struck him at the federal penitentiary in Victorville.

According to his San Francisco lawyers, the 21-year-old Marin County man was preparing for evening prayer Monday in the prison chapel when an inmate accosted him.

"Our understanding is that the inmate tackled John and began hitting him while screaming obscenities before running off," said attorney Tony West.

"The incident lasted several seconds. Prison officials later apprehended the inmate."

West said he visited Lindh on Wednesday. "He is fine. He's in very good spirits," West said. "He suffered no injuries, with the exception of a minor bruise on his forehead, and he is not in any physical pain."

Dan Dunne, a spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons in Washington, also said Lindh is doing well, and that measures were underway to improve his security.

Lindh pleaded guilty last year, and was given a 20-year prison sentence, after being captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan during the war on terror there.

His San Francisco-area family had wanted him housed near them, and prison officials said they have worked hard to guarantee his safety, especially since many in this country considered him a traitor for joining the Taliban army.

Lindh expressed remorse for his crime, and has been cooperating with federal authorities since pleading guilty as officials seek to learn more about the Taliban and Al Qaeda training camps.

Lindh, who was transferred to Victorville in January, has said he wants to pursue his Islamic studies in prison.

FBI spokeswoman Laura Bosley in Los Angeles said agents were investigating the attack and whether charges should be brought through the U.S. attorney's office.

Bosley said a single inmate attacked Lindh, though she declined to identify him.

She said no weapons were involved, and that Lindh was treated at the prison for his injury.

Bosley said the FBI probe was not out of the ordinary because of Lindh's notoriety and the special political nature of his case.

West added, "At this time, we have no reason to believe that this was anything more than an isolated incident."


Times staff writer Ralph Vartabedian contributed to this report.

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