Lindh prayer trial continues with chaplain, imam testimonies

Aug 29, 2012

Witnesses on behalf of the federal prison in Terre Haute got their say in federal court Tuesday over whether Muslims at the prison are being unfairly denied the right to pray daily as a group.

Attorneys for the government called two witnesses Tuesday: David Holston, the prison’s supervisory chaplain, and imam Ammar Amonette, the head of the Islamic Center of Virginia. 

Amonette says, in general, daily prayer in groups is preferred, but only if possible.  He says in the school of Islam American-born Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh practices, prisoners are exempted from congregate prayer requirements. 

Holston says the prison and its Communications Management Unit, or CMU, in which Lindh is housed, allow group prayer once a week – in line with federal policy.  And Holston says there are security concerns whenever inmates gather together in a group. 

Lindh attorney Ken Falk says everyone in the case agrees Muslims want to pray in a group if possible. He says the issue is whether group prayer could and should be allowed on a daily basis:

“Given that the prisoners are out of their cells and free to engage in all sorts of congregate activity and the testimony was the only lawful activity they’re not allowed to do in a group is pray, that it certainly is possible,” Falk said.

The trial is expected to continue for at least the next two days.  Prison intelligence officers and the current and former wardens are the next to testify.