American Justice, Bush Style

From Holden:

Ahmed Omar Abu Ali is an American citizen and Virginia high school valedictorian who attended universtiy in Saudi Arabia. In June 2003 he was arrested without charges by Saudi authorities.

Protective of their son’s rights and fearing he might be tortured by the Saudis, Abu Ali’s parents turned to the U.S. Embassy only to learn that his arrest had been orchestrated by the United States.

Within days of the arrest, they claim, FBI agents were attending Abu Ali’s interrogations, and within a week, another group of agents had raided their home in Virginia, seeking evidence of a terrorist conspiracy.

Saudi officials have reportedly described the detention as an American concern and have said that they would release Abu Ali if the U.S. requested it.

When Abu Ali’s parents sued in federal court to find out what the U.S. had done to their son and why, the Justice Department amazingly asserted:

[T]hat the courts lack jurisdiction over cases involving U.S. citizens in foreign custody — no matter how deeply involved the U.S. government is in their arrest, detention or abuse.

Justice’s reasoning in the case was soundly rejected by the court.

Then, eighteen months after Abu Ali was originally detained the State Department suddenly decided to “help” an American citizen:

The State Department has asked Saudi Arabia to either indict a U.S. citizen it is holding on suspicion of terrorist activities or allow the Justice Department to return him to the United States.

Of course this “help” was not born out of a sense of patriotism or service, but embarrassment.

Two U.S. officials from different national security agencies said the government did not really want Abu Ali returned. One said the government had hoped the Saudis would find a way to hold him, but was now seeking “to make the civil suit go away” because it risked forcing the government to disclose sensitive or embarrassing information about his case.

The latest chapter to unfold in this sordid tale was opened today – when the Justice Department suddenly produced Abu Ali and charged him with plotting to kill George W. Bush.

Abu Ali’s appearance in federal court here was a surprise because the government never publicly disclosed that he had left Saudi Arabia.


More than 100 supporters of Abu Ali crowded the courtroom Tuesday and laughed when the charge was read aloud alleging that he conspired to assassinate Bush. When Abu Ali asked to speak, U.S. Magistrate Liam O’Grady suggested he consult with his attorney, Ashraf Nubani. “He was tortured,” Nubani told the court. “He has the evidence on his back. He was whipped. He was handcuffed for days at a time.” When Nubani offered to show the judge his back, O’Grady said that Abu Ali might be able to enter that as evidence on Thursday at a detention hearing.

The situation would be laughable were it not for eighteen months of illegal detention and torture. Someone has some explaining to do.