Judge gives prison housing Lindh 30 days to allow Muslims to hold group prayers outside cells

INDIANAPOLIS — A federal judge on Friday gave the government 30 days to start allowing American Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh and other Muslim inmates to hold group prayers outside their cells in a high-security prison in Indiana.

In a seven-page order, Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson said the Bureau of Prisons might have misconstrued her ruling seven months ago that granted Lindh’s request to hold group prayers in the Terre Haute federal prison’s Communications Management Unit, so she made her intent clear.

“The warden is to allow group prayer during every Muslim prayer time for which the inmates are not confined to their cells,” she wrote in bold print.

“Put simply, just as inmates are free to assemble, socialize and engage in other group activities in common, recreational areas during times they are released from their cells, so too must they be allowed to engage in group prayer in common, out-of-cell areas,” Magnus-Stinson said.

U.S. troops captured Lindh in Afghanistan in 2001. Lindh, who grew up in California and was raised Catholic, was accused of fighting for the Taliban to help them build a pure Islamic state. In 2002, he pleaded guilty to supplying services to the now-defunct Taliban government and carrying explosives for them. He is eligible for release from prison in 2019.

The group prayer lawsuit originally was filed in 2009 by two Muslim inmates. The case drew far more attention after Lindh joined it in 2010. The other plaintiffs dropped out as they were released from prison or transferred to other units.