WASHINGTON – American-born Taliban John Walker received the same food and medical care as U.S. soldiers while in custody in Afghanistan, and even slept on a stretcher while his physician made do on a concrete floor, U.S. prosecutors said Friday.
The government's written court filing responded to repeated claims by Walker's lawyers that their client was all but tortured while in U.S. military custody.
The defense had argued that incriminating statements Walker made to interrogators should be thrown out, in part because he was interviewed after being confined in a freezing metal container, bound with circulation-cutting handcuffs and blindfolded.
The government did acknowledge that conditions in a U.S. military camp in Afghanistan weren't ideal for anyone.
However, the United States "had not plucked John Walker Lindh out of the California suburb where he used to live and dropped him into a metal container in the middle of Afghanistan," the court filing said.
Walker entered that country, sought out training at an Al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan, learned to use shoulder-fired weapons and grenades and swore allegiance to jihad, or holy war, it said.
Walker is charged with conspiracy to murder U.S. nationals, providing support and services to foreign terrorist organizations and using firearms and destructive devices during crimes of violence. Three of the 10 charges carry a maximum life sentence, and the other seven have maximum prison terms of 90 years.
Wounded in the leg, Walker was given "the very same medical treatment provided to wounded United States military personnel," the filing said. He was fed with the same Meals Ready To Eat as U.S. forces, in the same quantities, and was given warm comforters.
"While the Navy physician who was treating him had to sleep on a concrete floor in a sleeping bag in a room with a hole in the wall and a hole in the ceiling, Walker slept on a stretcher in a container that protected him from the elements," the filing said.
After he was taken aboard a U.S. military ship, Walker had a bullet removed by a senior surgeon, received a second haircut when he complained about an earlier one, had his mustache trimmed and was advised of the direction of Mecca so he could say his Muslim prayers, the government contended.
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III has scheduled a hearing on the defense document requests Monday. The case is in Alexandria, Va., and the filing was released in Washington by the Justice Department.
In addition to the comments on Walker's captivity, the prosecutors rejected several defense accusations against the government.
They said U.S. military officials did not tailor interrogation reports prepared last January to make Walker appear more guilty than in reports prepared in December.
Reports in both months "paint a similar portrait of the defendant as a man who, even after the catastrophic events of Sept. 11th ... maintained his allegiance to enemies of this country," the filing said.
The government rejected a claim that it omitted from documents a Walker statement that he was disillusioned after the Sept. 11 attacks — and would have left his unit but for fear of death.
The word was not from Walker, but rather was placed in the report by a military interrogator, giving his own interpretation of Walker's remarks, the filing said.
Prosecutors did not deny a request for defense lawyers to interview military detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but said they would respond by April 23 after consulting with military officials.