New York Times
February 22, 2005
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) -- A former Virginia high school valedictorian who had been detained in Saudi Arabia as a suspected terrorist was charged Tuesday with conspiring to assassinate President Bush and with supporting the al-Qaida terrorist network.
Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, 23, a U.S. citizen, made an initial appearance Tuesday in U.S. District Court but did not enter a plea. He contended that he was tortured while detained in Saudi Arabia since June of 2003 and offered through his lawyer to show the judge his scars.
The federal indictment said that in 2002 and 2003 Abu Ali and an unidentified co-conspirator discussed plans for Abu Ali to assassinate Bush. They discussed two scenarios, the indictment said, one in which Abu Ali ``would get close enough to the president to shoot him on the street'' and, alternatively, ``an operation in which Abu Ali would detonate a car bomb.''
The White House had no comment on the indictment.
Abu Ali was born in Houston and moved to Falls Church, Va., where he was valedictorian of his high school class. Federal prosecutors say Abu Ali joined an al-Qaida cell in Saudi Arabia in 2001. The alleged Bush plot occurred while he was studying in that country.
His family contends that U.S. officials were behind his detention by Saudi authorities and wanted him held in that country so he could be tortured for information. A lawsuit brought on their behalf in U.S. District Court in Washington seeks to compel the government to disclose what it knows about Abu Ali and his detention.
Abu Ali's appearance in federal court here was a surprise because the government never publicly disclosed that he had left Saudi Arabia.
According to the indictment, Abu Ali obtained a religious blessing from another unidentified co-conspirator to assassinate the president. One of the unidentified co-conspirators in the plot is among 19 people the Saudi government said in 2003 was seeking to launch terror attacks in that country, according to the indictment.
More than 100 supporters of Abu Ali crowded the courtroom Tuesday and laughed when the charge was read aloud alleging that he conspired to assassinate Bush.
When Abu Ali asked to speak, U.S. Magistrate Liam O'Grady suggested he consult with his attorney, Ashraf Nubani.
``He was tortured,'' Nubani told the court. ``He has the evidence on his back. He was whipped. He was handcuffed for days at a time.''
When Nubani offered to show the judge his back, O'Grady said that Abu Ali might be able to enter that as evidence on Thursday at a detention hearing.
``I can assure you you will not suffer any torture or humiliation while in the (U.S.) marshals' custody,'' O'Grady said.
Abu Ali is charged with six counts and would face a maximum of 80 years in prison if convicted. The charges include conspiracy to provide material support to al-Qaida, providing material support to al-Qaida, conspiracy to provide support to terrorists, providing material support to terrorists and contributing service to al-Qaida.