WASHINGTON — The family of a 23-year-old Muslim scholar accused of plotting with al-Qaida to kill President Bush said yesterday they want to sue the Bush administration for allowing their son’s detention and alleged torture in a Saudi prison.
Ahmed Abu Ali “was tortured on orders of the USA; they are monsters,” his mother, Faten, said outside a federal courtroom.
The young man’s father, Omar, said, “The Saudi government are slaves of the Americans” and the U.S. government is lying when it says his son was under Saudi control for the 20 months before he was flown to the United States and charged.
An indictment filed Tuesday alleges that Abu Ali discussed assassinating Bush, conducting a terrorist attack in the United States and establishing an al-Qaida cell here. More than 100 of his supporters ridiculed the judge during the reading of the charges against Ali.
Ahmed Omar Abu Ali
Born in Houston and raised in Virginia, he was valedictorian of the Islamic Saudi Academy in Alexandria, Va., then went to Saudi Arabia to study.
The school is funded and controlled by the Saudi government, which propagates a rigidly anti-Western strain of Islam, a WorldNetDaily investigation has shown.
The academy teaches Wahhabism through textbooks that condemn Jews and Christians as infidels and enemies of Islam. The Saudi government funds the school, which has a sister campus in Fairfax, Va.
“It is a school that is under the auspices of the Saudi Embassy,” said Ali al-Ahmed, executive director of the Washington-based Saudi Institute, a leading Saudi opposition group. “So the minister of education appoints the principal of the school, and the teachers are paid by the Saudi government.”
He says many of the academy’s textbooks he has reviewed contain passages promoting hatred of non-Muslims. For example, the 11th-grade text says one sign of the Day of Judgment will be when Muslims fight and kill Jews, who will hide behind trees that say: “Oh Muslim, oh servant of God, here is a Jew hiding behind me. Come here and kill him.”
Al-Ahmed, a Shiite Muslim born in predominantly Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia, says the school’s religious curriculum was written by Sheik Saleh al-Fawzan, a senior member of the Saudi religious council, who he said has “encouraged war against unbelievers.” Al-Fawzan has authored textbooks used in Saudi schools.
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.”
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.
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 were 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.
In a brief court session, U.S. District Judge John Bates anticipated that the family would press the lawsuit that the government seeks to dismiss. The judge set up a schedule over the next two weeks for both sides to file more court papers.
The judge wrote in December that there was “at least some circumstantial evidence that Abu Ali has been tortured during interrogations with the knowledge of the United States.”
In addition, Bates wrote that Abu Ali’s family said a U.S. diplomat reported to them that Abu Ali said FBI agents who questioned him threatened to send him to the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.