Shame on Bush for rights violation
Newsday | February 27, 2005
An American citizen jailed and maybe tortured in Saudi Arabia for 20 months, possibly at the behest of the U.S. government, is the latest outrage in a litany of detention excesses in the war on terror.
That list of shame includes ghost detainees kept off the books by the CIA, captives abused in U.S.-run prisons abroad and prisoners designated enemy combatants and denied basic due process.
President George W. Bush should show more respect for the Constitution. Ceding the moral high ground on rights will do little to help the war effort and much to destroy the nation's standing as a champion of freedom.
Ahmed Omar Abu Ali was arrested June 11, 2003, while taking a final exam at the Islamic University of Medina in Saudi Arabia. Although charged with no crime there, he was held for 20 months.
His family sued in federal court seeking his return to the United States. According to evidence they presented, Abu Ali was held at the behest of the U.S. government and tortured by his captors. Rather than contest that astounding allegation, the government argued that U.S. courts had no jurisdiction.
U.S. District Judge John Bates rejected that view. He ruled in December that there was persuasive, unrebutted evidence that the United States initiated Abu Ali's arrest, interrogated him in the Saudi prison, controlled his detention and was "keeping Abu Ali in Saudi Arabia to avoid constitutional scrutiny in the United States."
He was returned to the United States last week and charged with providing material support to al Qaida. Abu Ali may or may not be what officials say he is, a terrorist wannabe who conspired to assassinate Bush. That will be judged in a court of law now, as it should be.
The nation needs to be aggressive in preventing terrorism. But pulling an end run around the Constitution, as it seems the administration did, is abominable. It erodes important elements of what makes this nation special: Its respect for the rule of law and individual rights.