Published February 24, 2005
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – The source of one of the most sensational accusations against an American allegedly involved in a plot to kill President Bush is dead.
According to the most recent government filings in the case against Ahmed Omar Abu Ali (search) that advocate his pretrial detention, the Virginia resident discussed a plot to kill the president with a member of Al Qaeda who was later killed in a shootout with Saudi law enforcement around September 2003.
Abu Ali, 23, was charged Tuesday with the alleged plot, which prosecutors said was hatched while he studied in Saudi Arabia in 2002 and 2003. His detention hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.
The detainee's family also said Thursday they want to pursue a lawsuit accusing the administration of being behind their son's imprisonment and alleged torture in a Saudi prison.
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.
The U.S. government is also revealing for the first time that items confiscated from Abu Ali's home in Falls Church, Va., in the summer of 2003 include: an undated document praising Taliban leader Mullah Omar and the Sept. 11 attacks; a book written by senior Al Qaeda official Ayman al-Zawahiri (search) in which democracy is characterized as a "new religion that must be destroyed by war"; and audio tapes in Arabic promoting jihad.
The document praising the Sept. 11 attacks says the following, according to the indictment:
"In one of the most sophisticated, well-planned attacks seen in modern times, the Twin Towers, the source of providing $5 billion in annual aid to Israel, were destroyed," this document allegedly states. "And what is often conveniently forgotten is that the third plane turned the Pentagon, the symbol of American military supremacy, into a rhombus, whilst the fourth plane was shot down by the US themselves."
"The defendant's possession of these items at his residence makes it clear that even before he departed the United States for Saudi Arabia in September 2002, he already had come to embrace and support the violent ideology and objectives of Al Qaeda," the government concluded.
The Justice Department did not state in the court papers that Abu Ali wrote this document, but it did say that this document and other items found in his home make it "clear that even before he departed the United States for Saudi Arabia in September 2002, he already had come to embrace and support the violent ideology and objectives of al Qaeda."
In court papers filed Wednesday, the Justice Department also said Abu Ali, a U.S. citizen, should be detained pending trial because he presents an "exceptionally grave danger to the community and a serious risk of flight."
Also Wednesday, a lawmaker expressed concern that Abu Ali's alma mater could be turning out Islamic radicals. Sen. Charles Schumer (search), D-N.Y., questioned whether the academy from which the 23-year-old recently graduated was another example of schools funded by and linked to terrorism in the United States and abroad.
DOJ: Abu Ali Wasn't Tortured
Abu Ali's lawyers have expressed concern that the government's case may be based on evidence obtained through torture. At a hearing on Tuesday, Abu Ali offered to show the judge the scars on his back as proof that he was tortured by Saudi authorities.
"He has the evidence on his back," lawyer Ashraf Nubani told the court. "He was whipped. He was handcuffed for days at a time."
In a brief court session Thursday, U.S. District Judge John Bates anticipated that the family would press the abuse 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."
The Justice Department on Wednesday denied that Abu Ali was tortured, saying that such claims appear to be "utter fabrication."
In the Justice Department filings, the government points out that the seriousness of the charges against Abu Ali "militates strongly in favor of detention," adding that the suspect is a flight risk because he faces more than 80 years in prison and has "substantial ties overseas."
In addition, the Justice Department said that Abu Ali lived in Jordan from 1993 to 1997 and that he has close family members residing there. The United States claims that Abu Ali "admitted that he possessed a Jordanian passport that he had kept secret from the United States government."
As for Abu Ali's claims of torture, the Justice Department "submits that there is no credible evidence to support those claims, and that they are untrue."
The government points out that an American doctor gave Abu Ali a "thorough" physical exam on Feb. 21, after he had been transferred by the Saudi government to U.S. custody.
"The doctor found no evidence of any physical mistreatment on the defendant's back or any other part of his body," the Justice Department says in the court filing. "Moreover, the doctor specifically asked the defendant if he had been abused or harmed in any way, and the defendant said no."
The Consul at the U.S. embassy in Riyadh also met with Abu Ali while he was detained in Saudi Arabia, and "on no occasion did the defendant complain of any physical or psychological mistreatment," the Justice Department said.
Schumer Wants Saudi Academy Probed
Abu Ali had been detained for nearly two years by the Saudi Arabian government. His family sued the U.S. government shortly after his arrest there, claiming the Saudis were essentially holding him at the U.S. government's request.
He was returned to the United States and made an initial appearance in U.S. District Court shortly after his arrival Tuesday at Dulles International Airport. He did not enter a plea, but his lawyer said he would plead innocent.
His father said Ahmed was born in Houston and raised in northern Virginia, just a few miles from the nation's capital. He attended the Islamic Saudi Academy and graduated as valedictorian.
The private school's teachings have come under scrutiny since the Sept. 11 attacks. Federal court documents in a case against another academy graduate suspected of terrorism indicate that student discussions following Sept. 11 took an anti-American bent and that some students considered the attacks legitimate "payback" for American mistreatment of the Muslim world.
Last year, the school also faced criticism for using textbooks that taught first-graders that Judaism and Christianity are false religions.
Schumer spoke to reporters Thursday, voicing the concern expressed in his letter to Bandar and the Justice Department about the school.
"The Saudis have through the years set up madrassas, usually in poor countries like Indonesia ... that teach Wahabi fundamentalism," Schumer said. "In part [those teachings include] that Muslims who are not fundamentalists ought to be scorned ... and they often teach that it's [the students'] purpose to die for Allah."
"It looks like this school appears to be Saudi funded," Schumer continued. "I want to find out if this school was one of those maddrassas ... [because I believe] if there were no madrassas, there would have been no 9/11."
FOX News' Julie Asher, Catherine Herridge, Anna Persky, Jared Goldman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.