ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A Virginia man was sentenced Monday to life in prison for joining Al Qaeda and plotting to assassinate then-President George W. Bush, a more severe penalty than the original 30 years he received after his 2005 conviction.
Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, 28, joined Al Qaeda while attending college in Saudi Arabia and received training to carry out the assassination plot and other terrorist acts.
An appeals court found that Abu Ali should be sentenced again because the initial punishment was too lenient. U.S. Judge Gerald Bruce Lee said the new sentence takes into account that Abu Ali has never renounced Al Qaeda or terrorist activities.
Lee also said he took into account the fact that the Bureau of Prisons has placed Abu Ali in solitary confinement at a prison in Florence, Colo.
"There's no way to know what his mental state would be after 30 years of solitary confinement," Lee said.
Abu Ali was defiant in a brief statement to the judge.
"I would like to remind you that you too will appear before the divine tribunal with me and everyone else," he said. "That day there will be no lawyers ... If you are comfortable with that, you can decree what you will."
Abu Ali repeated claims he made from the outset that he was tortured into giving his confession to Saudi authorities.
"This was a case manufactured by the Saudi torture regime and expedited to the United States for trial," he said.
Lee said he had held a lengthy hearing to decide whether Abu Ali's confession should be thrown out. He noted that he, a jury and an appeals court all concluded it was a voluntary confession.
Abu Ali was born in Houston and raised in Falls Church, where he was valedictorian of a local Islamic high school.
He has received significant support from segments of the region's Muslim community. At Monday's hearing, Lee pointed to a folder stuffed with letters testifying to Abu Ali's good character.
Abu Ali's father, Omar, declined comment after the hearing. Defense lawyer Joshua Dratel said he will appeal the sentence.