- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 19, 2005

A Virginia man accused of joining al Qaeda angrily testified yesterday that he was whipped and tortured by Saudi interrogators who he said refused his requests to contact the U.S. Embassy.

Ahmed Omar Abu Ali testified at a pretrial hearing in U.S. District Court in Alexandria to determine whether the confession he gave to the Saudis in June 2003 was coerced through torture.

“I have never felt any pain like it in my life,” Abu Ali said. “It was the first time I felt extreme pain. They were telling me to confess.”

Abu Ali, 24, of Falls Church, was born in Houston and was the 1999 valedictorian of an Islamic high school in Northern Virginia. He is charged with joining al Qaeda while attending college in Saudi Arabia and planning several terrorist plots, including assassinating President Bush. His trial is scheduled for later this month.

If U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee finds that Abu Ali was tortured, he could dismiss the government’s entire case.

Prosecutors deny the torture allegations and say Abu Ali confessed willingly.

Abu Ali said he was tortured the day after he was arrested in Saudi Arabia. When he was first taken into custody, he said, he told the Saudis he wanted to speak to the U.S. Embassy.

“I wasn’t really cooperative at first. I said I would like to call the U.S. Embassy. I was denied that,” Abu Ali testified, angrily smacking his hand on the podium.

He said the Saudis told him, “The embassy is not going to help you. You have to help yourself.”

In a confession he gave to the Saudis, he said that he discussed a plot to assassinate Mr. Bush and plans to establish an al Qaeda cell in the U.S., to free Muslim prisoners held at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and to kill U.S. senators.

Abu Ali said on cross-examination that much of what he told the Saudis in his confession was false, but he offered no further explanation and his answer was cut short by Judge Lee, who has put off-limits questions about the truth of his confession.

On Tuesday, Dr. Allen Keller, who specializes in treating torture victims, testified that he believes Abu Ali’s claim, saying he saw about 10 thin, linear scars on his back. Prosecutors suggested during cross-examination that Dr. Keller naively accepted a concocted story. They presented testimony from a dermatologist, Dr. Robert Katz, who said he doubted that the marks on Abu Ali’s back — some of which were barely visible in photographs — were caused by flogging.

“You could get those marks by very superficial trauma,” Dr. Katz said.

Abu Ali, at his initial court appearance in February, told a magistrate that he had been tortured and offered to show him the scars. Instead, a judge ordered that a court-appointed photographer take pictures of Abu Ali’s back.

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