Published February 24, 2005
WASHINGTON – The family of a 23-year-old accused of plotting with Al Qaeda (search) to kill President Bush said Thursday they want to pursue a lawsuit accusing the administration of being behind their son's detention and alleged torture in a Saudi prison.
Ahmed Abu Ali (search) "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 Qaeda cell here. Born in Houston and raised in Virginia, he was valedictorian of the Islamic Saudi Academy in Alexandria, Va., then went to Saudi Arabia (search) to study.
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.
Outside the courtroom, Omar Abu Ali said he knew his son was being tortured at the Alhair prison in Riyadh because of the words the young man blurted out in his first phone call home after being arrested.
"I've been on a long trip in a wild jungle," Omar Abu Ali said his son told him. The father said he was terrified by the call because he knew it was code that he was being tortured.
In a filing Wednesday asking that Abu Ali remain jailed pending trial, the government revealed that one of two men Abu Ali is alleged to have talked to about assassinating Bush was killed in a shootout with Saudi authorities in September 2003.
The man, identified only as co-conspirator No. 2, was on a list of 19 suspects in suicide bombings at housing compounds in Riyadh in May 2003 that killed 35 people. Saudi officials have said the 19 had contacts with Al Qaeda.
Among those killed in a raid in September 2003 was Zubayr al-Rimi, also known as Sultan Jubran Sultan al-Qahtani. Saudi officials described him as the second-ranking Al Qaeda member in Saudi Arabia. The raid came after a tip from the FBI, part of heightened cooperation between the United States and Saudi Arabia following the May attacks.