- The Washington Times - Monday, October 17, 2005

An FBI doctor testified yesterday that he saw no significant scars on the back of a Falls Church man who says Saudi police whipped and tortured him into falsely confessing that he joined al Qaeda and plotted to assassinate President Bush.

Prosecutors say Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, 24, joined al Qaeda in 2002 while enrolled in a college in Saudi Arabia. They said he confessed to plotting Mr. Bush’s assassination along with other terrorist acts, including a plan to establish an al Qaeda cell in the United States and a rescue of Muslim prisoners detained at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

But Abu Ali’s attorneys are asking a federal judge to dismiss the government’s prosecution, arguing that Abu Ali gave a false confession in response to Saudi torture and that U.S. officials acted in concert with the Saudis.

Dr. Richard Schwartz, who does contract work for the FBI, testified yesterday at a pretrial hearing in U.S. District Court in Alexandria that he examined Abu Ali in February, when Abu Ali was brought to the United States from Saudi Arabia to face charges.

Dr. Schwartz said he saw three or four lines of “increased pigmentation” on Abu Ali’s upper back when he conducted his physical exam. But he said the lines were no more prominent than acne scarring that also was faintly visible on Abu Ali’s back.

The marks “appeared somewhat inconsequential,” Dr. Schwartz said, and he did not include them in his written report.

Dr. Schwartz said the lines could have been old scars or mere stretch marks associated with normal development or they could have been self-inflicted. But he acknowledged on cross-examination that they could have been caused by a flogging.

Dr. Schwartz said he specifically asked Abu Ali whether he had been mistreated, and Abu Ali said no.

Abu Ali, at his initial court appearance in the United States in February, told a magistrate that he had been tortured and offered to show the judge the scars on his back. Several of his previous attorneys also signed affidavits saying they had seen the scars.

Abu Ali says the torture occurred in the first few days after the Saudis arrested him in June 2003. Dr. Schwartz, the first American to examine him, did not do so until February 2005.

A nurse at the Alexandria jail also testified yesterday that she did not notice the scars when she examined him in February. Merry Brinkley said she only noticed a few pimples and acne scars and said the only concern that Abu Ali expressed during the exam was a desire for extra desserts to complement his vegetarian diet at the jail.

Also yesterday, prosecutors presented evidence suggesting that Abu Ali’s family coached him into claiming torture during phone calls to him while he was in Saudi custody.

Yesterday’s testimony was part of a pretrial hearing in which Judge Gerald Bruce Lee must decide whether Abu Ali’s confession to the Saudis is admissible at trial. If he rules that it’s inadmissible, he might toss out the case. Abu Ali’s attorneys are scheduled to begin presenting their case today.

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