A Fairfax, Va. man who plotted to assassinate President George W. Bush, provided material support to Al Qaeda and conspired to recreate the 9/11 attacks in a new hijacking scheme was sentenced to life in prison Monday.
Ahmed Omar Abu Ali originally was sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2006. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the conviction, but rejected the sentence as too lenient. The appellate court determined that the trial judge improperly tried to keep Abu Ali's sentence in line with others who did not cause the death of any Americans. The judge's reliance on John Walker Lindh, who plotted fought with the Taliban but didn't execute attacks against Americans, was misguided, the 4th Circuit found:
"Though the district court accurately noted that Abu Ali never "injured any people" and "no victim was injured in the United States[,]" this should not trivialize the severity of his offenses. Plotting terrorist attacks on the civilian population and conspiring to assassinate the President of the United States are offenses of the utmost gravity, and the Guidelines and for that matter any other measure of severity manifestly treat them as such. Had Abu Ali's plans come to fruition, they would, according to his own words, have led to massive civilian casualties and the assassination of senior U.S. officials."
"It was only because of his arrest that he was forced to desist from further execution of his plans. Thus, the defendant should not benefit simply because his plans were disrupted by Saudi officials before he could see them through."
According to a Washington Post report on Monday's sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee:
"I cannot put the safety of the American citizenry at risk," he said, citing Abu Ali's "unwillingness to renounce the beliefs that led to his terrorist activities."
Before receiving his sentence, Abu Ali told Lee that the judge would some day face judgment too, from Allah. Abu Ali was the 1999 valedictorian at Northern Virginia's Islamic Saudi Academy, a school which has been criticized for presenting radical content in textbooks.
Read the appellate decision here. To see excerpts from Abu-Ali's statement to Saudi officials who originally arrested him, click here.