A Falls Church man’s claims that he was tortured while in the custody of Saudi Arabia after his arrest as a suspected terrorist are “utter fabrications,” say federal prosecutors, who are pursuing his conviction in an al Qaeda conspiracy to kill President Bush.
U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty, in documents filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, said there was “no credible evidence” that Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, 23, was tortured or mistreated.
Mr. McNulty said a U.S. doctor who examined Mr. Abu Ali Monday after his transfer to U.S. custody “found no evidence of any physical mistreatment on the defendant’s back or any other part of his body.”
Mr. Abu Ali, named in a six-count federal grand jury indictment on charges of providing material support to the al Qaeda terrorist network, had charged in open court during a brief hearing on Monday that Saudi officials tortured him during 20 months of custody, including whipping him on the back.
“The consul at the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, an employee of the Department of State, met personally with the defendant on several occasions during his detention in Saudi Arabia,” Mr. McNulty said. “On no occasion did the defendant complain of any physical or psychological mistreatment.
“To the contrary, the defendant advised the consul ” to whom he could have confided claims of mistreatment to prompt intervention on his behalf by the U.S. government ” that he was being well treated,” he said.
Mr. McNulty also said Mr. Abu Ali told the consul he had access to a gym with fitness machines and was permitted to play soccer with other inmates in a gym area.
“Not until his initial appearance, with members of the news media present, did the defendant claim he had been physically mistreated while in Saudi custody,” Mr. McNulty said, adding that Mr. Abu Ali told the consul that his treatment at the hands of the Saudis had been “excellent, kind” and “humane.”
The U.S. attorney also said the consul routinely recorded after each of several visits in 2003 and 2004 with Mr. Abu Ali that he was in “good health and spirits ” there was nothing in his physical appearance, demeanor or speech to indicate mistreatment or abuse.”
Mr. McNulty also said FBI agents interviewed Mr. Abu Ali in September 2003 in Saudi Arabia over a four-day period and he appeared to be in good physical condition during those interviews. He said that at no time during those interview sessions did Mr. Abu Ali claim he had been physically mistreated by Saudi authorities.
“The government does not lightly consider allegations of torture by a U.S. citizen who has been held in foreign custody,” Mr. McNulty said. “In this case, however, the weight of the evidence strongly indicates that the defendant’s claims of mistreatment are an utter fabrication intended to divert attention from his criminal involvement with an al Qaeda cell in Saudi Arabia.”
Mr. Abu Ali, who is scheduled for a detention hearing on Tuesday, is charged with providing material support and resources to al Qaeda as part of a conspiracy to assassinate Mr. Bush. The indictment said he met with al Qaeda terrorists in Saudi Arabia to discuss plans for him to kill Mr. Bush with either a gun or a car bomb.
The government has opposed his release before trial, describing him as a flight risk. Prosecutors said in court papers that the “seriousness of the charges contained in the indictment against the defendant militates strongly in favor of detention.”
Mr. Abu Ali’s family and attorneys have denied charges he plotted to kill the president. The family said yesterday it will pursue a lawsuit accusing the Bush administration of calling for their son’s arrest in Saudi Arabia and for his reputed torture.