- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The government says a Falls Church man accused in an al Qaeda conspiracy to assassinate President Bush should not get a second medical examination attempting to prove he was tortured in Saudi Arabia before his release to U.S. authorities.

In a strongly worded motion, federal prosecutors argued that it would be unfair to allow a new round of tests by a doctor picked by Ahmed Omar Abu Ali’s defense team without letting the government have even one doctor of its choosing examine the terrorism suspect.

U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty said the government had “substantially and unfairly been prejudiced” by the court’s handling of the case.

He said giving the doctor — who examined Mr. Abu Ali for four hours in April — another chance to look over the suspected terrorist “while denying the government even one opportunity to examine him with its own medical expert would compound that prejudice.”

He said a favorable ruling by U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee for the defense should include a requirement that Mr. Abu Ali submit to at least one physical examination by a doctor of the government’s choosing.

“The defendant has made numerous statements admitting his involvement with an al Qaeda cell in Saudi Arabia and his participation in a conspiracy to commit terrorist acts against the United States, including the hijacking and destruction of civilian aircraft and the infliction of mass casualties on American soil,” Mr. McNulty said in the motion filed this week in U.S. District Court in Alexandria.

“To evade responsibility for his criminal acts, the defendant claims that his inculpatory admissions were the result of physical and mental coercion while in custody in Saudi Arabia,” he said — an accusation the government vigorously denies.

Mr. Abu Ali, 23, was named in February in a six-count grand-jury indictment saying he conspired to provide material support and resources to al Qaeda as part of an assassination plot against Mr. Bush.

A U.S. citizen, he is accused of meeting with leaders of the al Qaeda terrorist network on several occasions, including with Zubayr al-Rimi, the second-ranking al Qaeda member in Saudi Arabia who once was a key suspect in an attack that killed nine Americans in Riyadh.

Defense attorneys have said Mr. Abu Ali was tortured while in Saudi custody after his arrest in that country and that the U.S. government knew of the treatment before he was turned over to the FBI and returned in February to the United States to stand trial.

Attorney Ashraf W. Nubani has said doctors found scars on Mr. Abu Ali’s back showing he had been whipped and has asked Judge Lee to allow the defense team’s medical expert, Dr. Allen Keller, access to Mr. Abu Ali to take photographs.

The government contends there is “no credible evidence” Mr. Abu Ali was tortured or mistreated in Saudi Arabia, adding that a U.S. doctor who examined him after his transfer to U.S. authorities “found no evidence of any physical mistreatment on the defendant’s back or any other part of his body.”

Mr. McNulty, in the motion, said the court “does not possess the necessary expertise to evaluate whether marks on the defendant’s back, if any, are the result of physical mistreatment or, instead, are consistent with a variety of other conditions or causes, including self-inflicted or prior injuries.”

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