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Would-be Bush assassin could face life

Jury rejects claims that confession was product of Saudi torture

Arab-American Ahmed Abu Ali faces a minimum sentence of 20 years in prison.



Saudi Arabia
Acts of terror

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (CNN) -- A federal jury convicted a Virginia man Tuesday of joining the al Qaeda terrorist network and conspiring to assassinate President Bush. The man had claimed Saudi authorities tortured him into confessing.

Ahmed Abu Ali, a 24-year-old Arab-American reared in Falls Church, Virginia, faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years, or a maximum penalty of life behind bars.

Abu Ali was born in Texas. His family later moved to Falls Church. His Jordanian-born father works in the Saudi Embassy in Washington as a computer specialist.

The jury's nine women and three men took more than two days to reach their guilty verdicts on nine counts, including conspiracy to assassinate the president, conspiracy to destroy an aircraft and providing material support to terrorists. The trial lasted a month.

Abu Ali entered the courtroom smiling, but sat stoically when the verdict was reached.

"He doesn't show emotions very well," defense attorney Khurrum Wahid said, adding that his client intends to appeal the verdict. "He is disappointed that the jury didn't see the truth, and he wants us to continue to fight."

He also said Abu Ali hopes the verdict doesn't give the United States "the green light" to send "citizens to countries where they allow torture."

Prosecutors said the evidence presented in the case proved Abu Ali is a "dangerous terrorist who posed a grave threat to our national security."

"This conviction is the result of extraordinary law enforcement work and international cooperation. It serves as a clear warning to all that terrorists can and will be brought to the bar of justice," said Paul McNulty, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, in a written statement.

Authorities arrested Abu Ali in June 2003 in Medina, Saudi Arabia, where his attorney said he went for religious studies. Prosecutors said that Abu Ali confessed to having al Qaeda ties and discussing terror plots. They also showed the jury a videotaped confession Abu Ali gave while in Saudi custody.

"I came up with the idea on my own, but it did not get beyond the idea stage," Abu Ali said, allegedly of the Bush plot.

Abu Ali said during preliminary hearings that he was moved to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, shortly after his arrest, and one of his interrogators told him, "Torture is allowed in national security cases." (Read about Abu Ali's claims of torture)

His lawyers, who denied Abu Ali was an al Qaeda member, requested that the video be tossed out. A judge, however, sided with the U.S. government after it argued that Abu Ali never complained of mistreatment when he was questioned by U.S. consular officials, who visited him while he was being detained by the Saudis for almost two years.

Also, he never raised the subject while flying back to Virginia with U.S. officials earlier this year, investigators said.

Abu Ali, who did not testify during the trial, said during pretrial hearings that he did not complain about his treatment because Saudi officials were present.

CNN's Carol Cratty and Lindy Royce contributed to this report

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