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Terror suspect: Saudis tortured him

Charged with involvement in alleged plot to kill Bush

From Carol Cratty
CNN

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Ahmed Omar Abu Ali is shown in this sketch from his court appearance February 22.

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ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (CNN) -- A U.S. citizen accused of participating in an alleged al Qaeda plot to assassinate President Bush testified Wednesday he was tortured by Saudi authorities into making confessions after his arrest in 2003.

Ahmed Omar Abu Ali said he confessed to taking part in terror activities only because he was tortured. Those confessions are part of the U.S. government case against him.

"They would strike, and they would say 'confess,'" Abu Ali said at a hearing in a Virginia federal court, referring to Saudi authorities who interrogated him after he was arrested in Medina during an investigation of a terrorist bombing in Riyadh.

It was the first time Abu Ali has spoken in public about what he alleges happened in Saudi Arabia and the charges against him.

Pressed about some of the statements he gave to Saudi interrogators, Abu Ali said, "Many of them are false."

U.S. District Judge Gerald Lee stopped him from elaborating, after the defense objected, saying the hearing had only to do with the interrogation and the circumstances surrounding it.

Abu Ali has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiring to assassinate Bush and providing material support to terrorists.

His lawyers have filed motions asking Lee to throw out the indictment, alleging Abu Ali was tortured and forced into a confession. The hearing began October 11.

They also claim the government of Saudi Arabia was operating on behalf of the United States when Abu Ali was arrested.

Prosecutors dispute the torture claims and contend the charges should remain. Unless the judge dismisses the indictment, Abu Ali's trial is set for later this month.

After his arrest, Abu Ali was taken first to Medina and then to Riyadh, where he said one interrogator told him "torture is allowed in national security cases."

Abu Ali testified he initially resisted Saudi pressure to talk, not believing he would be beaten.

"Even though I was afraid, I still had the thought in the back of my mind they wouldn't do this. I am an American," he said.

Suspect tells his side

Wearing a green prison jumpsuit, Abu Ali testified for about three hours Wednesday and maintained his composure throughout most of the questioning.

At the request of the prosecutor, he stood to show where he had allegedly been struck, pointing first to the upper part of his back and then the middle part.

He told the prosecutor that he couldn't remember certain specifics, like the number of times he was struck or the type of instrument used against him.

He said he remembered being handcuffed to the floor and put into a crouch position.

Asked why he didn't just tell Saudi interrogators what they wanted to know, he responded, "I didn't want to talk to them. I had a right to remain silent."

When asked about his state of mind while in Saudi custody, he said, "I was afraid. I felt humiliated. ... I remember I couldn't sleep on my back for the first couple of weeks."

Abu Ali said he did not tell officials from the U.S. consulate who visited him while he was in Saudi custody about the alleged torture because he thought they did not care, and because Saudi authorities were present during those visits.

He said when he told FBI agents later in 2003 that he had been tortured, "they did nothing."

Asked why he told the authorities who brought him back to the United States that he was not tortured, Abu Ali said it was because he did not know where he was being taken.

"At that point I didn't really care. All I cared about was I was going home. I didn't really care about the charges," he said.

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