Two American families irrevocably affected by events in Afghanistan met in a US courtroom yesterday. They both sat in the second row but were a million miles apart.
The family of John Walker Lindh was there to see him plead not guilty to a 10-count indictment that included charges of conspiring to kill Americans while fighting with the forces of the former ruling regime.
The family of Johnny "Mike" Spann – the CIA officer who interrogated Mr Lindh before a prison uprising in which the Mr Spann was killed – was there to denounce the alleged Taliban member as a traitor.
Mr Lindh, 21, spoke briefly when he appeared before the court in Alexandria, Virginia. "Not guilty sir," he said.
He also smiled at his parents, seated towards the front of the court. After the hearing, Mr Lindh's father, Frank, approached Mr Spann's family, held out his hand and said: "I am sorry about your son. My son had nothing to do with it. I am sure you understand." Mr Spann's father kept his hands in his pockets and said nothing.
After the hearing, Mr Spann's relatives said they held Mr Lindh responsible for the CIA man's death, though none of the 10 charges relate to the incident at a prison at Mazar-i-Sharif, in Afghanistan, where Mr Spann was killed last November.
Gail Spann, the CIA officer's mother, said: "Mike was a hero, not because of the way he died but because of the way he lived. I would also like to say that John Walker is a traitor because of the way he lived."
Mr Spann's widow, Shannon, said her family had come to see whether Mr Lindh would take responsibility for his actions, something she said her husband had done throughout his life. She said she hoped Mr Lindh got the death penalty.Reuse content