Security Tight for American Taliban Trial


A federal judge emptied an Indianapolis federal courtroom Wednesday to discuss security for the hearing of "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh.

Lindh and other Muslim prisoners sued the Terra Haute federal prison, charging that officials refused to let them pray in groups they said was required by the Hanbali school of religious law within Sunni Islam, the Indianapolis Star reported.

A greater security presence was seen Wednesday than during the first two days of the trial, the Star said.

During Tuesday's court session, Imam Ammar Amonette, with the Islamic Center of Virginia, testified that Islam permits adjustments to group prayer to fit the circumstances, specific for prisoners because they would be confined to sells and would pray alone.

"The Koran teaches that God does not burden anyone if circumstances are beyond their control," said Amonette, who said he was a volunteer imam with federal and state prisoners for 25 years.

The prison restricts group prayer of all religious groups to once weekly, plus certain religious holidays, David Holston, supervisory chaplain at the Terre Haute Federal Correctional Complex, testified Tuesday. More inmate group prayer could create security issues, he said.

Lindh, 31, testified Monday in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis that the Federal Bureau of Prisons' policy forces him to sin because he can't fulfill his obligation under the Hanbali school of religious law, which requires group prayers five times a day if possible, the Star said.

U.S. authorities detained Lindh in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. He had been allegedly fighting alongside the Taliban. He has seven years left to serve on a 20-year prison sentence. Lindh grew up in Northern California and converted to Islam as an adult.

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