- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A Falls Church man accused in an al Qaeda conspiracy to assassinate President Bush was convicted yesterday by a federal jury in Alexandria that rejected accusations he had been tortured by authorities in Saudi Arabia to obtain a confession.

Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, 24, a U.S. citizen born to a Jordanian father, was convicted on charges of conspiracy to assassinate the president, conspiracy to provide material support and resources to al Qaeda terrorists, conspiracy to commit air piracy and conspiracy to destroy aircraft.

The jury reached its verdict after 2 days of deliberation. Abu Ali, the 1999 valedictorian of the Islamic Saudi Academy in Alexandria, did not testify during the trial. He faces a minimum mandatory sentence of 20 years and a maximum of life in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 17.

“The evidence presented in this case firmly established Abu Ali as a dangerous terrorist who posed a grave threat to our national security,” said U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty. “This conviction is the result of extraordinary law-enforcement work and international cooperation. It serves as a clear warning to all that terrorists can and will be brought to the bar of justice.”

Abu Ali told the court during an arraignment in February he had been tortured by Saudi officials. His attorneys said the U.S. government knew of the treatment before he was turned over to the FBI and returned to the United States to stand trial.

Defense attorney Ashraf W. Nubani said doctors found scars on Abu Ali’s back showing he had been whipped.

But the government contended there was “no credible evidence” 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.”

Abu Ali’s defense team said it would appeal the verdict.

“Obviously, the jury has spoken, but the fight is not over,” attorney Khurrum Wahid told reporters. “We intend to use the justice system to prove our client’s innocence.”

A six-count grand jury indictment handed up in U.S. District Court in Alexandria in February said Abu Ali on several occasions in Saudi Arabia met with leaders of al Qaeda, including Zubayr al-Rimi, the second-ranking al Qaeda member in that country.

The indictment said Abu Ali told co-conspirators in 2002 and 2003 that he wanted to become a planner of terrorist operations like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, mastermind of the September 11 attacks, and lead hijacker Mohamed Atta.

Mr. McNulty said at the time Abu Ali had 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.

He said Abu Ali later 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.

The indictment said Abu Ali provided material support by purchasing a laptop computer, cellular telephone and books for the terrorist organization’s use. It also said he received training from al Qaeda in the use of weapons, including hand grenades, and document forgery.

Saudi authorities arrested Abu Ali in June 2003 after terrorist attacks in Riyadh that killed 34, including nine Americans.

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