RICHMOND, Va. (CN) – An American convicted of plotting with al-Qaida to assassinate President Bush should have received life in prison rather than 30 years, the 4th Circuit ruled.
The district court had recognized that the sentencing guidelines for Ahmed Omar Abu Ali called for life, but instead the court determined that putting him in prison for the “majority of his productive years” would be “sufficient punishment.”
The lower court used other terrorist cases as tent poles, slotting Abu Ali between John Walker Lindh, who received 20 years, Terry Nichols, who received life in prison, and Timothy McVeigh, who was sentenced to death.
The circuit’s three-judge panel remanded the case for resentencing, ruling that the district court paid too much attention to positioning Abu Ali’s sentence between those of the other terrorists.
“Lindh and Abu Ali are not comparable,” the judges ruled. “The degree of harm contemplated by Abu Ali was broader in scope and more devastating in terms of its potential impact.”
Abu Ali was born in Texas and studied at an Islamic school in Virginia. He continued his studies in Saudi Arabia, where he became involved with al-Qaida.
He spoke with an al-Qaeda leader about attacking amusement parks and other crowded places in the United States.
Abu Ali also planned to assassinate President Bush, either by a martyr attack or through the coordination of several snipers.
The group also considered a second 9/11-style attack using planes from Australia or the United Kingdom. Another plan involved Abu Ali settling into American society and marrying a Christian woman in order to establish a sleeper cell.
Saudi authorities arrested Abu Ali and his associates in 2003.
The three-judge panel also denied Abu Ali’s claim that his Miranda rights were violated, since the entire arrest was carried out by Saudi authorities. The judges also denied Abu Ali’s claims that his statements were a result of torture.
Abu Ali has stated that he hates the United States “for what I felt was its support of Israel against the Palestinian people.”