An American-born Taliban fighter took the stand Monday to argue for his right to pray with other Muslim inmates in prison.
John Walker Lindh is a prisoner at a federal correctional facility in Terre Haute. He’s being held at a specialized “Communications Management Unit” within the federal prison where inmate communications are heavily monitored and analyzed. Prisoners in the CMU have been prevented from performing a daily prayer together since 2009.
In his testimony, Lindh and other plaintiffs argued the ability to hold prayer as a group is essential to their strict observance of Islam. The state meanwhile maintains the restrictions are in place for security reasons.
Lindh told the judge his religious rights are being violated and that it’s “absurd to prohibit group prayer on the basis of security concerns.”
Indiana ACLU attorney Ken Falk represents Lindh. He says group prayer is the only peaceful activity in which prisoners are not allowed to engage.
“If this activity is just the same as sitting around, talking about politics, or sitting around watching religious videos, or sitting around and talking about sports, then it doesn’t make any sense to restrict it during the times when people are other-wise able to engage in those other activities,” Falk said.
The prison’s attorney, Will McCloskey, would not comment on the case, but in court he told the judge Muslim prisoners are allowed to perform many religious acts that do not interfere with security.
Lindh was captured in 2001 when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan. He is serving a 20-year sentence for supporting terrorists. The trial is expected to continue for several days.