SAN FRANCISCO -- The father of American-born Taliban soldier John Walker Lindh said Wednesday that his son is handling prison well nearly a decade after being captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan.
Frank Lindh told students at the University of San Francisco School of Law on Wednesday that his son, now 30, spends his days studying ancient Islamic texts and is earning a liberal arts degree at Indiana University.
"He's a very calm and centered person," Frank Lindh said of his son. "He's very spiritual. He does his daily prayers. He's an observant Muslim. . We talk heart to heart a lot."
John Walker Lindh is serving a 20-year sentence. He is being held in special unit of a Terre Haute, Ind., federal prison that holds mostly Muslim inmates whose communications with the outside world are restricted.
Rights groups have criticized the unit as discriminatory. The Bureau of Prisons says the units are intended to house those for whom outside contact poses a heightened security risk but who don't need to be placed in the federal SuperMax prison in Florence, Colo.
John Walker Lindh was held for about a year in the SuperMax prison, where his father told The Associated Press in a rare one-on-one interview that his son was brought out for visits locked in chains.
Frank Lindh said his son handled even the rigid confinement of the SuperMax prison well because of his introverted, studious nature. But he said his son is
The younger Lindh is a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit against the prison bureau seeking permission to hold daily prayer groups in the cell block. Lindh and a fellow inmate claim the prison's policy restricting group prayer in the Communications Management Unit violates their religious rights.
In 2002, John Walker Lindh pleaded guilty to supplying services to the now-defunct Taliban government and carrying explosives for them. He had been charged with conspiring to kill Americans and support terrorists, but those charges were dropped in a plea agreement.
Frank Lindh's appearance at the school is a part of his long-running campaign to clear his son's name of what he calls false accusations leveled by government officials and the media claiming his son was a terrorist.
Lindh contends his son was serving with the Taliban only to protect civilians who were being victimized by the Northern Alliance, who were fighting a civil war to topple the Taliban government and who became U.S. allies following the invasion of Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks.
President Bush denied John Walker Lindh's petition for clemency in one of his last acts as president. Frank Lindh says that any plan for his son to petition President Obama to be freed is an issue between him and his lawyers, but that he hopes his son makes the attempt sooner rather than later.
At the same time, he calls the chances of Obama freeing his son a "long shot."
"Even if he personally feels that there was an injustice committed here, it's a politically difficult decision for the president to . set someone free who people have been taught is a terrorist."