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Terror Suspect's Attorneys Link FBI to Alleged Torture by Saudis

Washington Post | May 11, 2005
By Jerry Markon

Saudi officials tortured an American student charged with conspiring to kill President Bush "at the direct behest" of the FBI, whose agents did nothing to stop the abuse, attorneys for Ahmed Omar Abu Ali said in court papers.

In motions filed late Monday, Abu Ali's attorneys said he was tortured while FBI agents were in Saudi Arabia to interview him in September 2003. They said the abuse came at the hands of the Interior Ministry's Mabahith branch, the Saudi equivalent of the FBI. When Abu Ali complained to an FBI agent, the attorneys said, the agent stormed out of the room.

"The FBI's interrogations would begin late at night and into the early mornings, after which they would turn Mr. Abu Ali over to the Saudi Mabahith, who would dutifully torture him and deprive him of sleep in preparation for the next day of interrogations," the lawyers wrote.

The lawyers said Abu Ali was beaten, whipped and subjected to "the most sadistic forms of psychological torture."

Defense attorneys have long argued that Abu Ali, 24, of Falls Church was tortured while in Saudi custody before being flown back to the United States to face terrorism charges in February. The government says Abu Ali confessed to the assassination plot against Bush and admitted discussing with members of al Qaeda his plans to conduct a Sept. 11-style terrorist attack in the United States.

Federal prosecutors have denied that Abu Ali was tortured. A Justice Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said yesterday: "The suggestion that the government tacitly encouraged torture of Abu Ali is completely without merit."

Prosecutors asked a judge yesterday to order Abu Ali to produce his medical records to see whether he had "pre-existing medical problems." They said Abu Ali's attorneys won't provide the records.

Saudi security sources have said that officers used physical and psychological pressure on Abu Ali to elicit information but that it stopped short of severe or prolonged torture. An FBI spokeswoman did not return telephone calls.

Defense attorneys signaled in the filing that they intend to use the torture allegations to get Abu Ali's statements to Saudi interrogators thrown out. Abu Ali's trial is scheduled for Aug. 22 in U.S. District Court in Alexandria.

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