An Arab-American college student was convicted Tuesday of joining al-Qaida and plotting to assassinate President Bush.
The federal jury rejected Ahmed Omar Abu Ali’s claim that Saudi authorities whipped and tortured him to extract a false confession.
Abu Ali, a 24-year-old U.S. citizen born to a Jordanian father and raised in Falls Church, Va., could get life in prison on charges that included conspiracy to assassinate the president, conspiracy to hijack aircraft and providing support to al-Qaida.
The jury deliberated for 2½ days. Abu Ali swallowed hard before the verdict was read but otherwise showed little emotion. He did not testify at his trial.
“Obviously the jury has spoken, but the fight is not over,” defense attorney Khurrum Wahid said. “We intend to use the justice system to prove our client’s innocence.”
Abu Ali told authorities shortly after his June 2003 arrest at a university in Medina, Saudi Arabia, that he joined al-Qaida and discussed various terrorist plots, including a plan to personally assassinate Bush and to establish himself as a leader of an al-Qaida cell in the United States.
But the defense countered that he was tortured by the Saudi security force known as the Mubahith.
False implication alleged
Wahid suggested that an al-Qaida member arrested by the Saudis falsely fingered Abu Ali to protect other cell members still at large. “You think the al-Qaida guys are going to give up a fellow al-Qaida, or did they pick some patsy from the University of Medina?” Wahid said in closing arguments.
Prosecutors said he was never mistreated and confessed voluntarily.
Prosecutors said Abu Ali went to Saudi Arabia in 2002 with the notion of becoming a terrorist and later met al-Qaida’s No. 2 man in Medina.
“The true focus of his education quickly became apparent,” prosecutor Stephen Campbell said. “Instead of studying Islamic law, he began attending secret terrorist training sessions.”