- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 16, 2004

A federal judge ruled yesterday that the family of a U.S. citizen held in Saudi Arabia on suspicion of terrorism ties may sue the U.S. government for his release because some evidence exists of American involvement in the arrest.

But the family of Ahmed Abu Ali would have to demonstrate in court that he was arrested at the urging of U.S. officials, ruled U.S. District Judge John Bates.

In rejecting the government’s petition that the case be thrown out because American courts lack jurisdiction over arrests in foreign countries, Judge Bates accused prosecutors of seeking “sweeping” powers.

“The authority sought would permit the executive … to deliver a United States citizen to a foreign country to avoid constitutional scrutiny, or … work through the intermediary of a foreign country to detain a United States citizen abroad,” Judge Bates said.

“The court concludes that a citizen cannot be so easily separated from his constitutional rights,” he said.

Abu Ali, born in Houston to two Jordan-born U.S. citizens, was studying in Saudi Arabia when he was arrested June 11, 2003.

Less than a week later, a point the family cites as evidence of U.S. involvement in the arrest, FBI agents searched the family’s Falls Church home, saying Abu Ali was linked to a group of 11 Washington-area persons later convicted of training with paintball guns and firearms to join a Pakistani terror group.

No charges have been brought against Abu Ali by either the United States or Saudi Arabia. Prosecutors referred his case to the paintball-case grand jury, but the panel declined to return an indictment.

His father says Saudi officials told him that they would release him if the United States asks.

The family fears he is being tortured in Saudi custody, where he was interrogated in the presence of FBI agents, and later questioned by them.

Judge Bates did not rule on the legitimacy of the claims, but said there is “at least some circumstantial evidence that Abu Ali has been tortured during interrogations with the knowledge of the United States.”

A prosecutor in the paintball case told that court that under Saudi interrogation, Abu Ali admitted joining al Qaeda.

Abu Ali’s lawyer, Morton Sklar of the group World Organization for Human Rights USA, said the ruling “is part of a pattern of recent cases that have rebuffed the administration’s assertion of these extraordinary powers.”

The case is thought to be the first to challenge the U.S. government’s position that Americans have no access to U.S. courts when a foreign government arrests them.

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