- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 11, 2005

A Falls Church man accused of joining al Qaeda and plotting to assassinate President Bush said in a confession videotaped by Saudi authorities that he was motivated by hatred of U.S. support for Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.

Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, 24, also said during the confession that a top al Qaeda operative in Saudi Arabia “made it clear I became one of them and that I could speak in the name of al Qaeda.”

Prosecutors yesterday for the first time played Abu Ali’s 13-minute black-and-white videotaped confession — given to the Saudis in July 2003 — during a pretrial hearing to deny defense charges that the confession was coerced through torture.

The government says that Abu Ali, a U.S. citizen who grew up in Virginia, joined al Qaeda while attending college in Saudi Arabia and that he confessed to plotting to personally assassinate Mr. Bush and other terrorist acts, including the assassination of senators and attacks on U.S. warships.

The defense wants the case tossed out because it says Abu Ali falsely confessed after being tortured and whipped by the Saudis, and further says that U.S. authorities were complicit in the Saudis’ torture of Abu Ali.

Prosecutors deny that Abu Ali was mistreated.

U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee viewed the videotape yesterday over the objections of Abu Ali’s attorneys, saying he wanted to observe Abu Ali’s demeanor during the tape.

His demeanor was subject to interpretation. At several points he yawned and chuckled to himself. When discussing his training on a Kalashnikov rifle, he pantomimed a rifle attack — all of which prosecutors said was evidence that Abu Ali was relaxed and voluntary in his confession.

At other points Abu Ali appeared to be giving a monotone regurgitation in Arabic of a written statement that prosecutors have previously acknowledged was written for him by the Saudis.

Also, prosecutors had previously said in court papers that Abu Ali ad-libbed lines about the futility of certain assignments given to him by al Qaeda — which they cite as further evidence that Abu Ali gave a relaxed, voluntary confession. But the government’s own witness refuted that argument yesterday, testifying that the ad-libbed line was indeed written out for him by the Saudis.

In the confession, Abu Ali says he “was interested in jihad and the idea of mujahedeen [religious warrior]” because of “my hatred of the United States for support of Israel against the Palestinian people.”

Abu Ali said he liked the idea of assassinating Mr. Bush over attacks on military targets or plane hijackings “because it would be easier to carry out because he appears in so many public places.”

The defense team contends that Abu Ali’s confession should be tossed out of court not only because it is false, but also because U.S. authorities worked hand in hand with the Saudis to investigate the case but denied Abu Ali’s constitutional rights to an attorney and to remain silent.

Several FBI agents testified yesterday that the Saudis investigated and interrogated Abu Ali on their own and offered only limited cooperation to the Americans.

The pretrial hearing on the validity of Abu Ali’s confession is expected to continue into next week. Abu Ali is expected to testify on his own behalf.

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