ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A man accused of plotting to kill President Bush (search) was a trained terrorist who betrayed his country because he was intent on "killing the leader of the infidels," prosecutors said in opening statements Monday.
Ahmed Omar Abu Ali (search), 24, of Falls Church, Va. is on trial in federal court, facing several felony charges that could send him to prison for the rest of his life. Besides being accused conspiring to assassinate the president, he is also charged with conspiracy to commit air piracy and offering aid to and receiving financial assistance from members of Al Qaeda (search).
"He betrayed his country by joining forces with our most lethal enemy overseas," said Assistant U.S. Attorney David Laufman.
Abu Ali has confessed. Prosecutors say the confessions were voluntary, but the defense says Saudi agents tortured him after his arrest two years ago.
Laufman told the jury that Abu Ali talked with Al Qaeda members about several plots, including smuggling terror operatives into the United States through Mexico and assassinating members of Congress and the U.S. Army.
He also took $1,300 from an Al Qaeda leader to buy a laptop computer so he could research the locations of nuclear power plants in the United States, Laufman said.
"The defendant received terrorist training in weapons, explosives and document falsification," Laufman said.
Confessions obtained by Saudi security agents following his June 8, 2003 arrest will be admitted as evidence. Prosecutors contend Abu Ali provided his confessions voluntarily, but defense attorneys argued that he was tortured into making false statements.
"Just stop the pain, I'll say anything," defense attorney Carmen Vizcaino, told jurors, paraphrasing her client's mindset after what she described as 40 days of flogging and other abuse. She clapped her hands repeatedly during a portion of her opening statement to signify the impact of "one lash after another."
Vizcaino said that when Abu Ali told FBI agents he'd been tortured and constantly threatened with beheading and dismemberment, they did nothing.
Abu Ali studied in Saudi Arabia, she said, where he liked to engage in political discussions in coffee and tea shops. As "the American," he had a high profile.
"There is a mountain of reasonable doubt in this case," Vizcaino said.