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To paraphrase an old saying, hell hath no fury like a father who believes his son has been wronged. On Thursday, Frank Lindh, father of John Walker Lindh � the so-called “American Taliban” imprisoned in 2002 for aiding the enemy in Afghanistan � told a rapt audience at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club that his son is neither a traitor nor a terrorist, but rather “a decent and honorable young man embarked on a spiritual quest.” He defiantly accused the government and the media of engaging in “an overly negative and prejudicial” campaign that “falsely linked” his son to terrorism at a time � just after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 � when vengeance was on the nation’s mind. Lindh, a San Rafael resident and in-house lawyer for Pacific Gas & Electric Co., called his son, who turns 25 next month, “a fortunate survivor of a mass killing of prisoners” by U.S.-backed Afghan allies and insisted that Walker Lindh hadn’t betrayed his country. “He never fought against Americans,” Lindh insisted. “He never held a gun on an American soldier.” Lindh said he and his son’s lawyers, including Morrison & Foerster partner James Brosnahan Jr. � who attended the speech � are trying to persuade President Bush to commute the younger Lindh’s 20-year prison sentence. John Walker Lindh was captured on Nov. 21, 2001, during fierce fighting pitting American forces and their allies against the Taliban army, which Walker Lindh had joined unbeknownst to his family. Pictures of a bearded, dirty and bedraggled Walker Lindh were beamed across America, enraging many who viewed him as a traitor. Walker Lindh was sentenced in October 2002 as part of an agreement under which he pleaded guilty to one count of supplying services to the Taliban. His father, whose voice wavered with emotion a few times Thursday, said, “Poor John was presumed guilty before he got back to the United States.” He noted that everyone from the president down � with clamorous assistance from the media � branded Walker Lindh as a terrorist and a traitor. He also lashed out at former Attorney General John Ashcroft, accusing him of committing “a breach of professional ethics” by making prejudicial statements about Walker Lindh before any legal proceedings ever started. “He was the focal point of all that anger, all that emotion, all that grief” following the events of 9/11, Lindh said. “John’s essentially taking the heat for something he was not involved in.” Lindh also accused the government of torturing his son at the insistence of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. He said the younger Lindh upon capture was blindfolded and bound naked by duct tape to a stretcher, and that his bullet wound was “left to fester.” “He was treated in a way that is shameful to our nation and its ideals,” Lindh said, choking up. “All of the conduct was in violation of the Geneva Convention rules of war.” Lindh said Walker Lindh, his second oldest child, was born in Washington, D.C. He was named after former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Marshall and rock pioneer John Lennon, as well as for the fact that the name John “means gift from God.” The five-member family moved to the Bay Area in 1991, and by 16 Walker Lindh, raised as a Catholic, had converted to Islam. A few years later, he moved to Pakistan to study the Koran and try to become an Islamic scholar. Walker Lindh slipped into Afghanistan in 2001 and joined the Taliban army in a war against the rival Northern Alliance. His father said Walker Lindh twice saw Osama bin Laden, talking to him on one occasion and coming away unimpressed. “John recognized instantly that bin Laden was not a true Islamic scholar,” he said. He also said his son had no idea bin Laden was a terrorist. These days, Walker Lindh is imprisoned at a federal penitentiary in Victorville and gets weekly visits from his family, including his mother, Marilyn, who is divorced from his father. Visits last as long as five hours on Saturdays and Sundays. “Ordinarily a son who is 25 doesn’t have much time to spend with his father,” Lindh said to a few chuckles. “But we have a lot of time.” If not for the terror attacks of 2001, Lindh said, his son’s decision to follow his Muslim faith and join the Taliban army would have been the subject of curiosity, but little else. “But being viewed through the prism of those attacks,” he said, “has caused this young man to be vilified as a terrorist and a traitor.”

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