- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 22, 2005

A Falls Church man detained in Saudi Arabia as a terror suspect was charged yesterday in federal court in Virginia with providing material support and resources to al Qaeda as part of a conspiracy to assassinate President Bush.

A federal grand jury indictment handed up in U.S. District Court in Alexandria said Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, a 23-year-old U.S. citizen and 1999 valedictorian of the Islamic Saudi Academy in Alexandria, met with al Qaeda terrorists in Saudi Arabia to discuss plans for him to kill Mr. Bush with either a gun or car bomb.

The six-count indictment, filed Feb. 3 but unsealed yesterday, said Abu Ali told unidentified co-conspirators at the meetings in 2002 and 2003 that he wanted to become a planner of terrorist operations like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the the mastermind of the September 11 attacks, and Mohamed Atta, one of the hijackers in the attacks.

“After the devastating terrorist attack and murders of September 11, the defendant turned his back on America and joined the cause of al Qaeda,” said U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty. “He now stands charged with some of the most serious offenses our nation can bring against supporters of terrorism.”

Detained as a terror suspect for 20 months in Saudi Arabia, Abu Ali was returned to the United States on Monday. At a court appearance yesterday in Alexandria, he did not offer a plea and was ordered held by U.S. Magistrate Liam O’Grady for a detention hearing tomorrow.

Abu Ali, who faces up to 80 years in prison, told the court he had been tortured by Saudi officials. He offered to show Magistrate O’Grady the scars as proof — an offer that was rejected.

“It’s lies. It’s all lies,” his father, Omar Abu Ali, a Falls Church resident, told the Associated Press after the hearing. “The government lied from the very first day.”

In July, Ahmed Omar Abu Ali’s parents filed a lawsuit accusing the U.S. government of working with Saudi officials to ensure their son’s unlawful detention in the kingdom, where it was known he would be tortured. That case is pending before U.S. District Judge John D. Bates in Washington.

Abu Ali’s attorney, Edward MacMahon, said yesterday that the government’s case relied on information obtained through torture and that his client will plead innocent.

Mr. McNulty said Abu Ali traveled from Washington Dulles International Airport in 2000 to pursue religious studies in Saudi Arabia. He said that while Abu Ali was at the Islamic University of Medina, he met and lived with an unidentified co-conspirator, with whom he established a friendship.

Mr. McNulty said Abu Ali visited his friend again in September 2002, telling him of his interest in joining al Qaeda. He said Abu Ali was introduced to a second co-conspirator, with whom he discussed plans to assassinate Mr. Bush. Mr. McNulty said Abu Ali later repeated those plans to other co-conspirators — at least one of whom gave his “religious blessing” for the planned assassination.

Mr. McNulty said Abu Ali “knew and understood” the co-conspirators were al Qaeda members and that he later decided to go to Afghanistan to train for jihad against U.S. military personnel in that country — although his visa request to enter Iran as a means of passage to Afghanistan was denied.

The indictment said Abu Ali met with at least 10 unindicted co-conspirators during his Saudi visits, all of whom were associated with al Qaeda, and that he provided material support by purchasing a laptop computer, cellular telephone and books for the terrorist organization’s use.

Mr. McNulty said Abu Ali received training from al Qaeda in weapons use, explosives, hand grenades and document forgery. He was arrested by Saudi authorities in June 2003 after terrorist attacks in Riyadh that killed 34, including nine Americans, and identified as a member of a clandestine terrorist cell.

After his arrest, the FBI searched his Falls Church home and found documents on government surveillance and how to avoid it; a two-page paper praising Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar and the September 11 attacks, and condemning U.S. military action in Afghanistan; an issue of Handguns magazine; Arabic audio tapes promoting jihad and the killing of Jews; and a book by Ayman al-Zawahri characterizing democracy as a new religion that must be destroyed by war.

The 17-page grand jury indictment said that in the 1990s al Qaeda sought to recruit U.S. citizens to exploit their ability to blend into Western society and travel more freely within the United States and Western Europe. In February 1998, al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and al Zawahri, his top lieutenant, issued a declaration that “to kill Americans and their allies — civilian and military” was the duty of every Muslim.

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