WASHINGTON — US national Ahmed Omar Abu Ali was sentenced to life in prison Monday for joining an Al-Qaeda plot to assassinate then-president George W. Bush, court officials said.
The sentence against Abu Ali, read out by Judge Gerald Bruce in an Alexandria, Virginia courtroom, replaced a previous 30-year-sentence handed down in 2006, but later overturned by an appeals court as too "lenient."
One of Abu Ali's attorneys, Ashraf Nubani, told AFP that his client "will be pursuing an appeal in the hope that justice will prevail."
Abu Ali, 28, was born and educated in the United States. He was convicted in late 2005 on six charges, including providing material support to the Al-Qaeda terrorist network.
Prosecutors specifically alleged that Abu Ali plotted with an accomplice to assassinate the former president, either by shooting him, planting a car bomb targeting the leader or carrying out a suicide bomb attack.
Abu Ali was arrested in 2003 by authorities in Medina, Saudi Arabia, where he had been studying theology for several months.
He was held in Saudi jails for two years before being extradited to the United States and his lawyers have said he was abused by authorities there.
"He continues to maintain his innocence and that he was tortured. He and his supporters are convinced that one day he will be vindicated," Nubani told AFP.
According to prosecutors, Abu Ali "by his own admission" proposed multiple terrorist attacks, including "assassinating members of Congress" and "assassinating members of the American administration and the American army."
Prosecutors said he also suggested "rescuing prisoners at Guantanamo or inside America" and "blowing up military airplanes on the ground at their bases."
Abu Ali apparently planned to set up an Al-Qaeda cell inside the United States to carry out the various attacks he had proposed.
His lawyers claim all the allegations are based on admissions their client made under torture in Saudi Arabia and they asked the judge to consider Abu Ali's young age at the time of the offenses for which he was convicted.
Abu Ali's lawyers also noted that "the evidence... established that Mr Abu Ali engaged in discussions about illegal conduct, but did not take substantial affirmative steps to perform such conduct."
The fact that Abu Ali failed to carry out any attacks was the reason he avoided a life sentence in 2006, but that failed to convince the court this time around.
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