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U.S. says American citizen a 'grave danger'

Ahmed Omar Abu Ali charged after Saudi Arabia detention

Ahmed Omar Abu Ali is shown Tuesday in court in this sketch.
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Two very different stories emerge about Ahmed Omar Abu Ali.

An American charged in an alleged plot to kill President Bush.
Indictment:  U.S. v. Abu Ali  (FindLaw, PDF)external link
Saudi Arabia
George W. Bush
United States
Acts of terror

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (CNN) -- An American citizen handed over by Saudi Arabia should remain in custody because "he presents an exceptionally grave danger to the community and a serious flight risk," the lead prosecutor said in court papers filed Wednesday.

U.S. Attorney Paul McNulty filed his motion ahead of a detention hearing for 23-year-old Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, an alleged al Qaeda member. Abu Ali was detained for 20 months in Saudi Arabia before being transferred to U.S. custody this week.

Abu Ali is charged with providing material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization -- al Qaeda. Prosecutors also allege he discussed the possibility of assassinating President Bush.

Abu Ali is said to be a flight risk because of his extensive overseas contacts, the charges he faces and his Jordanian citizenship, according to McNulty's filing -- much of which echoed Tuesday's indictment. (Full story)

"He is demonstrably a grave danger to the community -- and to the nation," the prosecutor wrote. "At the same time, he presents a serious risk of flight. There is no condition or combination of conditions that will adequately safeguard the American people or assure the defendant's appearance for trial."

Abu Ali was arrested after the May 2003 bombings in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in which 23 people were killed, including nine Americans. Sources familiar with the case have said Abu Ali is suspected of having connections to individuals involved in that bombing.

His case generated controversy after Abu Ali's family filed a lawsuit last year charging that U.S. authorities had asked for his arrest. U.S. officials have denied that assertion.

Abu Ali was transferred to the United States on Monday and charged the next day. He faces a maximum of 80 years in prison if convicted.

According to McNulty, Abu Ali was a member of a secret al Qaeda cell within Saudi Arabia from around September 2002 to about June 2003.

McNulty said Abu Ali discussed with a co-conspirator two ways of killing President Bush: "an operation in which the defendant would get close enough to the president to shoot him on the street; and an operation in which the defendant would detonate a car bomb."

"The defendant obtained a religious blessing to conduct the assassination of President Bush from a Saudi cleric," McNulty wrote. "In joining al Qaeda, it was the defendant's intent to become a planner of terrorist operations."

McNulty also dismissed accusations by Abu Ali that he was tortured while detained in Saudi Arabia. The prosecutor said such accusations are irrelevant for the detention hearing, and added, there is "no credible evidence to support those claims."

McNulty said that when Abu Ali was visited by U.S. officials in Saudi Arabia in July 2003, he "used the words 'excellent,' 'kind' and 'humane' to describe his treatment."

Edward MacMahon, an attorney for Abu Ali's family, said Tuesday: "Abu Ali intends to plead not guilty to all of these charges. He expects to have a fair trial at which he will be vindicated."

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