Frank Lindh, a Georgetown law school graduate, spoke today to more than 60 students at the University of San Francisco School of Law about how he believes his son was mistreated by the U.S. legal system.
"The smart thing - not just the honorable thing - for the government to do when they find this kid who's fluent in Arabic and knows his way around that world would be to give him a job," Frank Lindh said.
John Lindh, 30, is serving a 20-year sentence in a medium-security federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., for providing services to the Taliban and carrying a weapon while doing so in 2001. He pleaded guilty in 2002 to two felony counts in federal court as part of a plea bargain that expunged several additional accusations.
Prosecutors initially claimed in 10 counts that Lindh was guilty of conspiracy to murder U.S. nationals, providing material resources for terrorist groups, and using firearms during crimes of violence.
"They brought a highly inflated series of charges against him, including contributing to al-Qaida," Frank Lindh said.
He said his son converted to Islam at age 16 and made several trips to Southeast Asia to study Arabic in the late 1990s. John Lindh met Osama bin Laden twice while working as a volunteer for the military in Afghanistan in July 2001, his father said.
"He certainly knew instantly that Osama bin Laden was not an authentic, scholarly, or decent Muslim person," Frank Lindh said.
Months later, on Nov. 25, 2001, John Lindh was captured in a northern part of Afghanistan by then-U.S. ally the Afghan Northern Alliance.
A violent uprising ensued while a Central Intelligence Agency officer was questioning John Lindh that day, and the officer was killed in the crossfire, according to media reports.
In 2004, after John Lindh pleaded guilty, his attorney said he was a scapegoat because he was the first American citizen discovered among enemy forces, and because the U.S. and its allies were unable to find Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders.
"They had a scapegoat, and they landed on him as hard as they could to show they were doing something," San Francisco-based lawyer James Brosnahan said.
Frank Lindh appealed today to the USF law students to join the fight in his son's case.
"The Constitution does not live in the national archive. It lives in our hearts," he said. "You're law students. We need courageous lawyers."