"They would need to show that U.S. personnel participated in the torture -- not the arrest, not the detention, not even the interrogation,'' said Victoria Toensing, a Washington lawyer.
Abu Ali was born in Houston and moved to Northern Virginia at age 4. He attended the private Islamic Saudi Academy in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County, a school for grades K-12. He graduated as valedictorian and briefly attended the University of Maryland before going to Saudi Arabia to pursue religious studies.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Liam O'Grady listens to defense attorney Ashraf Nubani as Ahmed Omar Abu Ali appears in federal court in Alexandria.
(William J. Hennesy Jr. For The Washington Post)
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Abu Ali was studying at the University of Medina when Saudi authorities arrested him and 18 or 19 other men suspected of having connections to people involved in the May 12, 2003, bombing of three Western residential compounds in Riyadh. The bombing killed 23 people. The men were believed to be a jihadist cell in training, U.S. officials have said.
Abu Ali's name also surfaced during the recent case of a group of Northern Virginia men accused of training for jihad overseas by playing paintball in the Virginia countryside. The FBI became interested in Abu Ali because he knew some of the men convicted in that case, U.S. officials have said.
In a lawsuit against the U.S. government, filed last summer in federal court in the District, Abu Ali's parents alleged that the United States government had arranged for him to be held by the Saudis and that U.S. authorities expected he would be tortured there.
Abu Ali is not charged directly with plotting to kill Bush; the allegation is part of a broader indictment that includes conspiracy charges. The charges also include providing material support to al Qaeda, contributing services to al Qaeda and receiving funds from al Qaeda. The indictment was returned by a federal grand jury in Alexandria on Feb. 3 and unsealed yesterday.
The White House declined to comment on the plot allegations.
A federal magistrate judge yesterday ordered Abu Ali detained until a hearing tomorrow. If convicted of all charges, he faces up to 80 years in prison.
Staff writers Carol D. Leonnig and Jim VandeHei contributed to this report.