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Doctor says Al-Qaida suspect was whipped

A U.S. citizen charged with plotting to kill President Bush was whipped and forced to stand with his handcuffed hands attached to a chain that was hung from the ceiling while he was in Saudi custody, a doctor said.
/ Source: Reuters

A U.S. citizen charged with plotting to kill President George W. Bush was whipped and forced to stand with his handcuffed hands attached to a chain that was suspended from the ceiling while he was in Saudi custody, a doctor said on Tuesday.

The physician was testifying in a hearing to determine whether a confession signed by Ahmed Abu Ali in Saudi Arabia should be used at trial in federal court or whether it should be thrown out because it was obtained by coercion.

Allen Keller, a doctor who specializes in diagnosis and treatment of torture victims, said Abu Ali told him that while in Saudi Arabian custody for 20 months he was whipped, beaten and forced to stand for hours with his handcuffed hands over his head attached to a chain suspended from the ceiling.

“In my opinion, Mr. Abu Ali was subjected to torture, and in fact to several forms of torture,” Keller said. He based his comments on an 8-hour exam of Abu Ali conducted in April.

Keller was retained by Abu Ali’s lawyers, who claim their client was beaten after being arrested in Saudi Arabia in June 2003. Abu Ali, 24, was detained while studying in Saudi Arabia and was held near Riyadh for 20 months before returning to face trial on charges of plotting with al-Qaida to kill Bush.

Abu Ali wants U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce to throw out confessions made by Abu Ali while in Saudi custody in which he admits to plotting with al-Qaida to kill Bush in addition to other possible attacks.

Disputable evidence that he was tortured
Prosecutors say the statements should be allowed because there is no credible evidence that Abu Ali was tortured.

Keller said he found about 10 scars on Abu Ali’s back that were likely caused by beatings.

“He told me he was repeatedly struck with a foreign object on his back,” Keller said. “The marks were...all the same width — that strongly suggested that all of those linear marks were caused by the same object.”

But two other doctors, called by the U.S. government to testify, disagreed with Keller’s findings.

Robert Katz, a dermatologist, said earlier on Tuesday that he had examined photographs of Abu Ali’s back and he believed the marks were just abnormal pigmentation of his skin.

“They are not scars,” said Katz, who only saw four marks on Abu Ali’s back.

When asked if the marks were caused by whipping, Katz replied: “It’s unlikely. The four marks show no evidence of scarring, and they’re limited to the upper back.”

‘It’s just pigmentation’
He said there was no sign of a thickening or thinning of the skin, which is normal when skin scars. He also said there was no “randomness” in the marks, which would be expected if someone was whipped.

“It’s just pigmentation,” he said.

A contract doctor for the FBI, Richard Schwartz, testified that he saw the marks on Abu Ali’s back when he examined him as he was being transported from Riyadh back to the United States earlier this year.

Schwartz also described the marks as areas of increased pigmentation and said they did not look like scars.

Schwartz said the marks appeared so inconsequential that he did not mention them in his report of his physical evaluation of Abu Ali.

He said Abu Ali denied being mistreated in prison.

Abu Ali has pleaded not guilty to a nine-count indictment charging him with conspiring to kill the president and with providing support and resources to al-Qaida. No date or year for the plot has been specified in the indictment