Conviction in Bush death plot

first_imgALEXANDRIA, Va. – An American Muslim student charged with joining al-Qaida and plotting to assassinate President George W. Bush was convicted Tuesday on all counts. The federal jury rejected Ahmed Omar Abu Ali’s claim that Saudi security officers whipped and tortured him into a false confession. Abu Ali, a 24-year-old U.S. citizen born to a Jordanian father and raised in Falls Church, Va., could get life in prison on charges that included conspiracy to assassinate the president, conspiracy to hijack aircraft and providing support to al-Qaida. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 17. The jury deliberated for 2 days. Abu Ali swallowed hard before the verdict was read but otherwise showed little emotion. He did not testify at his trial. Notes taken by his Saudi interrogators said he discussed numerous potential terror plots, but the one that most appealed to him was killing “the leader of the infidels” – President Bush. Defense lawyers argued that Abu Ali gave a false confession after being whipped and beaten by the Saudi security force known as the Mubahith. Juror Nancy Ramsden said the videotaped confession was a “very striking” piece of evidence. “It was almost sort of a joke for him,” she said, referring to points in the tape where Abu Ali laughs and pantomimes the use of an assault rifle. Ramsden said the jurors agreed from the beginning they did not believe Abu Ali was physically tortured. Abu Ali testified about his detention and alleged torture at a pretrial hearing, but at trial he relied on the testimony of a doctor and a psychiatrist who said his account was consistent with being tortured. Prosecutors denied that Abu Ali, who was enrolled at the Islamic University of Medina at the time of his June 2003 arrest, was ever mistreated. They presented video testimony from Abu Ali’s Saudi interrogators who said he confessed immediately after being confronted with evidence obtained from other al-Qaida members. A dermatologist testified for the government that faint linear marks on Abu Ali’s back were only surface scratches. Defense lawyers had sought to have the confession tossed out and the case dismissed at a hearing last month. But Judge Gerald Bruce Lee allowed the prosecution to go forward, saying he had doubts about the credibility of Abu Ali’s account. The confession’s admissibility is likely to be a significant issue in the appeal. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals Abu Ali’s lawyer, Khurrum Wahid, said he will appeal. He said his client “is disappointed that the jury didn’t see the truth and he wants us to continue the fight.” Wahid said he believes it’s difficult for any person to get a fair trial when the accusations involve al-Qaida. “I think the country went through a very traumatic event on Sept. 11 and it’s very difficult for people to separate that from the facts in a particular case,” he said. U.S. Attorney Paul McNulty said in a statement that “the evidence presented in this case firmly established Abu Ali as a dangerous terrorist who posed a grave threat to our national security. … It serves as a clear warning to all that terrorists can and will be brought to the bar of justice.” Jurors in the three-week trial saw a videotaped confession in which Abu Ali said he joined al-Qaida because he hated the United States for its support of Israel. last_img read more