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U.S. ponders American Taliban figher's fate

Walker was wounded before being captured at a fortress holding Taliban prisoners near Mazar-e Sharif.
Walker was wounded before being captured at a fortress holding Taliban prisoners near Mazar-e Sharif.  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush declined to say Monday whether he thought John Walker, an American captured while fighting with the Taliban, should face the death penalty, as some -- including New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani -- have suggested.

"I'm going to let the appropriate law-enforcement agencies make recommendations to me," Bush said. "He has been questioned, properly questioned, by the U.S government. I have yet to see the transcript myself, but we'll make the decision on what to do with Mr. Walker."

Meanwhile, a San Francisco, California, attorney hired by Walker's parents, James Brosnahan, issued a statement Monday saying that the family has received no response to repeated requests for access to Walker and information about him. Walker has been interrogated for 16 days without his attorney being present, Brosnahan said.

U.S. authorities are considering what charges to bring against the American captured while fighting with the Taliban. CNN's Susan Candiotti reports (December 18)

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"Whatever the accusation, John has constitutional rights," Brosnahan said. "Getting to the facts, allowing an accused person to talk with his attorney, ensuring that our system operates fairly regardless of the allegation -- that is what the Constitution was designed to protect."

Walker, 20, was taken into custody by the U.S. military this month after a bloody prison uprising in northern Afghanistan.

"With Mr. Walker, the government is still ascertaining what the facts are involved," White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said. "The Department of Defense and others are still inquiring to determine exactly what happened to Mr. Walker, how he came to be a Taliban, what activities he actually engaged in as a member of the Taliban."

In an interview with CNN about three weeks ago, Walker -- speaking from a hospital bed before he was taken into U.S. custody -- said he attended al Qaeda terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and saw Osama bin Laden many times while there.

Bush administration officials have said nothing publicly on reports that he has admitted to being a member of al Qaeda.

Fleischer noted that, whatever becomes of Walker, he will not face a military tribunal, as Bush is allowing them only for non-U.S. citizens. Walker is a citizen, he said.

Walker was transferred out of Afghanistan on Friday to the USS Peleliu, an amphibious assault ship in the Arabian Sea. He will remain on the ship until officials decide how to dispose of his case.

Brosnahan said the only communication between Walker and his parents was a note they received December 11, dictated to the Red Cross and signed by Walker December 3.

In a return letter, they told their son they had retained a lawyer for him, but the parents have received no confirmation that their son got the letter, Brosnahan said.

The only information the Department of Defense has released to his family and attorney was a short letter on December 14. Military officials said they were providing him medical attention and treating him "humanely, consistent with the Geneva Convention protections for prisoners of war," the letter said.

"He has now been held in custody and reportedly subject to ongoing interrogations by various government agents for 16 days without any access to an attorney and without the ability to communicate with his family," Brosnahan said. "We continue to seek the government's help in giving John's parents access to their son."

Giuliani said Sunday that prosecutors ought to give "a lot of consideration" to seeking for the death penalty against Walker.


• New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani

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