[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website] on Tuesday affirmed [opinion, PDF] the life sentence of Ahmed Abu Ali, a US citizen who joined al Qaeda while studying abroad in Saudi Arabia. Abu Ali was convicted in November 2005 on nine charges [JURIST report] related to conspiracy to commit terrorist acts, including plotting to assassinate then-president George W. Bush. Attorneys for Abu Ali argued that the life sentence was unconstitutional and procedurally and substantively unreasonable, though the court ruled that the sentence fell within “well-established boundaries” and did not reflect an abuse of discretion.
Abu Ali’s original sentence of 30 years imprisonment [JURIST report], imposed in March 2006, was increased to life [Reuters report] following a successful appeal in 2008 brought by the US Department of Justice [official website]. Sentencing proceedings were initially delayed [JURIST report] to allow lawyers in the case time to investigate whether evidence against Abu Ali had been obtained through warrantless domestic surveillance. His conviction came after a federal judge denied Abu Ali’s motion to suppress his confession, which he claimed was a byproduct of torture [JURIST reports] at the hands of Saudi Arabian domestic security police. The Saudi Arabian government denied the torture allegations [JURIST report]. Abu Ali, arrested in 2003, pleaded not guilty at trial, which commenced [JURIST reports] in October 2005.