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Saudi Arabia handing over U.S. citizen

Man held for 20 months expected to face charges

• District Court:  Dec. rulingexternal link
United States
Saudi Arabia
Crime, Law and Justice

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- An American detained in Saudi Arabia for 20 months without being charged is being sent back to the United States where he is expected to be charged Tuesday, his father and a family friend told CNN.

Two U.S. government sources indicated they were aware of the move but refused to provide any details.

The FBI and Justice Department refused comment.

The case of Ahmed Abu Ali, 23, generated controversy after his family sued the U.S. government last year charging that American authorities had asked for his arrest in June 2003. U.S. officials have denied that assertion.

The transfer of custody follows a recent demand by the U.S. government to the Saudis to either charge Abu Ali or release him to American custody.

Abu Ali's family said it has been told he will face unspecified charges in federal court. He is expected to make an appearance in U.S. District Court sometime Tuesday.

His father Omar Abu Ali, said he got a call from the FBI telling him his son was coming back from Saudi Arabia Monday night.

"I feel that the truth will come soon," he told CNN. "He will be a free man soon."

He said his son's return to the United States shows this was never a Saudi case.

The father said his son is not guilty of any crimes. Regarding the unspecified charge expected to be filed in the United States, the father said, "They are lying. He is innocent."

Abu Ali was arrested after the May 2003 bombings in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which killed 23 people, including nine Americans. (Full story)

Sources familiar with the case have said Abu Ali is suspected of having connections to individuals involved in that bombing. A federal grand jury has been hearing evidence regarding the case.

Federal prosecutors have previously alleged Abu Ali had a relationship with some members of what has been called the "Virginia jihad network," whose members were charged with providing material support to a terrorist organization.

A federal judge last December ruled the family's lawsuit could proceed despite strong objections from the U.S. government. The Justice Department this month filed a motion asking the judge overseeing the case to dismiss the family's lawsuit.

With that motion the Justice Department filed a secret document explaining its legal reasoning and citing classified evidence. The family's lawyer criticized that effort, saying it was unfair because he could not respond to the secret evidence, meaning the judge considering the motion would hear from only one side.

CNN's Kelli Arena, Carol Cratty and Terry Frieden contributed to this story.

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