London – As John Walker Lindh is released, the US government must face key questions about his abuse under interrogation, as well as the atrocities committed by the US military during the invasion of Afghanistan.

During his imprisonment, then US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ordered US interrogators to “take the gloves off”. The result was that Lindh was kept naked in a freezing container for two days, while his wounds remained festering and untreated.

Lindh was paraded as a trophy in the media, as the first American captured who was “fighting for al-Qaeda”. But US terrorism experts have said that he fought for the Taliban, which he saw as an “Islamic liberation movement” struggling to remove the US-backed Northern Alliance, which he had seen committing “numerous atrocities … against civilians”.

The examples of these atrocities are well documented, but perhaps most well-known is the massacre of over 500 unarmed Taliban prisoners at the fort of Qala-i-Jangi in 2001, of which John was a survivor, and for which there has still not been any accountability or apology from the US and Britain, who backed the killings.

Moazzam Begg, outreach director for CAGE, said:

“John Walker Lindh was taken into US custody following one of the worst military massacres in recent history. Over 500 Taliban of mostly unarmed prisoners were killed by US and US-allied Afghani militias at Qala-i-Jangi. Lindh was one of only 86 who survived. The methods used to kill them included gunfire, shelling, aerial bombardment, drowning, electrocution and burning.”

“Although one CIA official – who was reportedly firing indiscriminately at bound prisoners – was killed during the violence, there was never any suggestion that Lindh was involved in any way. The majority of those who survived were sent to Guantanamo and it is from them I heard about the horror at Qala. Most of the Guantanamo survivors of Qala were released over a decade ago. John Walker Lindh’s biggest crime, however, was that he was American.”

“Despite not harming anyone Lindh was sentenced to twenty years in prison – not because of what he did but who he was. America exacted its revenge against one of its own.”

“There are those who believe that John Walker Lindh should remain in prison far longer. The truth is that Lindh has been in prison far too long and should never have received such a heavy sentence. It is now time for him to be allowed to restart his life in peace and freedom.”


(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)