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Monday, August 27, 2012

Ind. Courts - "John Walker Lindh Sues For Prison Prayer Group"

Carrie Johnson and Margot Williams have an NPR Morning Edition story here. Some quotes:

On Monday, Lindh will come out of the shadows and into a federal courthouse in Indianapolis, as the plaintiff in a lawsuit against the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

The devout Muslim wants to be able to pray together with his fellow inmates every day from inside the walls of his secret prison unit in Terre Haute, Ind.

"They can sit around and talk about politics or football or whatever philosophy," says Ken Falk, a lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union who's representing Lindh. "The one thing they're not allowed to do is pray together for their daily prayers, which many Muslims believe is required or at least strongly preferred."

Falk says the prison system is stepping on the rights of those inmates to practice their faith under a federal law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Charles Wilson of the AP has a long story today that begins:
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The U.S. government claims it has the ultimate proof that American-born Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh might foment hate and violence among fellow Muslim inmates if they're allowed to pray together daily. He has already tried, it argues.

But Lindh, 31, accuses the government of going too far in its drive for security and trampling on his freedom of religion by restricting group prayers among Muslim inmates in the Terre Haute, Ind., prison unit where he has been housed since 2007.

Lindh is expected to testify Monday in federal court in Indianapolis during the first day of a trial that will examine how far prison officials can go to ensure security in the age of terrorism.

Muslims are required to pray five times a day, and the Hanbali school to which Lindh belongs requires group prayer if it is possible. But inmates in the Communications Management Unit are allowed to pray together only once a week except during Ramadan. At other times, they must pray in their individual cells. Lindh claims that doesn't meet the Quran's requirements and is inappropriate because he is forced to kneel in close proximity to his toilet. * * *

According to court documents, daily prayers were allowed from the time the unit opened in 2006 until May 2007, when Muslim inmates refused to stop in the middle of a prayer to return to their cells during a fire emergency.

The lawsuit was originally filed in 2009 by two Muslim inmates in the unit. Lindh joined the lawsuit in 2010, and the case has drawn far more attention since then. The other plaintiffs have dropped out as they were released from prison or transferred to other units.

Lindh had been charged with conspiring to kill Americans and support terrorists, but those charges were dropped in a plea agreement. He is serving a 20-year sentence for supplying services to the now-defunct Taliban government of Afghanistan and carrying explosives for them. He is eligible for release in 2019.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on August 27, 2012 10:06 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts