U.S.-born Taliban fighter wins prison prayer lawsuit
By Charles Wilson
Friday, January 11, 2013
** FILE ** This undated file photo obtained from a religious school ... more >
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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — An American convicted of fighting alongside the Taliban must be allowed to pray daily in a group with other Muslim inmates at his high-security prison in Indiana, a federal judge ruled Friday.
Barring John Walker Lindh and his fellow Muslims from engaging in daily group ritual prayer violates a 1993 law that bans the government from curtailing religious speech without showing a compelling interest, U.S. District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson
The judge blocked the prison from enforcing its ban on daily group prayer, but she noted that her ruling does not prohibit the prison from taking less restrictive security measures.
U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett, whose office represented the prison, said Friday that prosecutors were considering their next step, including a possible appeal. “This case deals with critically important issues that have significance both inside and outside the walls of our federal prison facilities,” Hogsett said. “Our concern continues to be the safety and security of both our federal prison system and the United States of America.”
“I think the court correctly noted that security is a primary concern, but that it’s not sufficient for the government to claim a security concern without having evidence of it,” Falk
Lindh said that didn’t meet the Quran’s requirements, and that the Hanbali school of Islam to which he adheres requires him to pray daily with other Muslims. But prison officials said the same restrictions applied to all inmates, and that meeting Lindh’s demands would be dangerous, unaffordable and unfair. Government witnesses testified that Muslims, who make up the majority of inmates in the unit, have operated like a gang under the guise of religious activity.
During trial, the ACLU noted that games and some other group activities were not restricted.
Lindh is serving a 20-year sentence for aiding the Taliban during the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan. He was captured by U.S. troops that year, and in 2002 pleaded guilty to supplying services and carrying explosives for the now-defunct Taliban government. He is eligible for release in 2019. Raised Catholic, the California native was 12 when he saw the movie “Malcolm X” and became interested in Islam. He converted at age 16. Walker told Newsweek after his capture that he had entered Afghanistan
to help the Taliban
build a “pure Islamic state.”
Lindh joined the prayer lawsuit in 2010, three years after being sent to the Indiana prison. The suit was originally filed in 2009 by two Muslim inmates in the unit, but it got far more attention when Lindh joined the case. The other plaintiffs later dropped out as they were released or transferred from the prison. “I think he was ready to just abide by the outcome, but I think in John’s mind he felt he had an obligation to stand up for the right to pray,” Lindh’s father, Frank Lindh, during a phone interview from his office in San Francisco.View Entire Story‹‹ previous12next ››
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