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Walker Lindh pleads not guilty

Artist's sketch of John Walker Lindh at court appearance Wednesday.
Artist's sketch of John Walker Lindh at court appearance Wednesday.  

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (CNN) -- John Walker Lindh pleaded not guilty Wednesday to 10 charges filed against him in federal court, including conspiracy to kill Americans overseas while fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The judge asked defense and prosecuting attorneys to return to court in Alexandria, Virginia, on Friday to set a trial date.

Walker Lindh is accused of joining al Qaeda fighters in the Afghan war. The grand jury indictment against him also includes charges of providing support to al Qaeda and other terrorist groups; and using firearms and destructive devices, including hand grenades, in crimes of violence, in addition to conspiracy to kill Americans overseas.

Walker Lindh, wearing a green prison jumpsuit, replied "not guilty, sir," to the charges.

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U.S. District Court Judge T. S. Ellis rejected an agreement between prosecutors and defense attorneys to delay the trial until November, saying the date was "too far, it's not appropriate."

Instead, Ellis asked attorneys to return to court Friday with an agreement to start in August or September, suggesting they consider starting jury selection on August 26.

Defense attorneys had been concerned about pretrial publicity and hoped for a delay to allow emotions to settle. Federal attorneys said pretrial publicity would not dissipate, but cited the need to collect evidence from three countries, including a war zone, in their request for a delay.

Walker Lindh's parents were in the courtroom, as were the parents and widow of CIA operative Micheal (Johnny) Spann, who was killed in an uprising at the Mazar e-Sharif prison where Walker Lindh was held. Spann, the first American killed in combat in Afghanistan, interrogated the 21-year-old Californian about 30 minutes before the start of the uprising.

"We expect Mr. Walker to be held personally responsible for all the things that he's done," said Spann's widow, Shannon, after the arraignment.

Spann would not comment on whether she thought Walker Lindh should be charged with treason, but her late husband's mother unequivocally said Walker Lindh's actions were "treasonous."

Walker Lindh is not charged with, nor is he believed involved directly in, Spann's death.




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