Locked up; they won’t let me out

Aman Ali's view

Every week, I stare at a blank Microsoft Word document pondering how to compile my mind’s gobbledygook into a 550 word column.

“Maybe this week I won’t write anything related to the Middle East,” I tell myself. “I need to write about something different for a change. There’s nothing going on there anyway.”

Then, upon reading the latest news headlines, my face writhes in pain as I rip out strands of my neatly trimmed beard hairs.

The latest contestant on the Justice Department’s “Manhunt for Mullahs” is the American citizen Ahmed Omar Abu Ali. Abu Ali graduated as a valedictorian from an Islamic high school in Virginia. He attended college at Medina University in Saudi Arabia. The university is one of the top mainstream Islamic colleges in the world.

Twenty months ago, while taking an exam, Abu Ali was pulled out of class by Saudi officials and imprisoned without any charge. U.S. intelligence told the Saudi government that he was a threat to American national security and did not provide details. The United States ordered Saudi Arabia to detain Abu Ali until the United States was ready to handle the case. Until last week, Abu Ali was held in a Saudi prison without being notified why he was a threat.

Abu Ali claims to have been tortured, and lawyers say his body scars are proof. Relatives of Abu Ali told The Associated Press that Saudi prison guards “whipped him for three straight days, kept him in solitary confinement for months, blindfolded him and denied him food.”

Last week, Abu Ali was finally transferred to the United States and notified of his charges. Both the New York Times and Washington Post report that the Justice Department had stated that Abu Ali had gotten al-Qaida training and money to buy books and a laptop while studying in Saudi Arabia. Other charges include Abu Ali being involved in a “preparation for, and carrying out, the assassination of the President of the United States.”

The government has a right to take threats toward the president seriously. But how serious is Abu Ali’s case of “Bush-whacking” when it took 20 months to charge him?

If the Justice Department believed that Abu Ali was such a threat, it would have brought Abu Ali back to the United States and charged him much quicker. Then again, perhaps John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales decided to fly him in at a later date just to save money on Priceline.com.

Now, Abu Ali’s family and lawyers can only meet with Abu Ali if they promise to speak in English and under supervision by FBI agents. They cannot share Abu Ali’s statements to the press. In last Friday’s New York Times, a government official explained the privacy restrictions by saying “if the family says he (Abu Ali) told them, ‘The sky is clear, but it may rain tomorrow,’ that could be a message to terrorists.”

So if Abu Ali says “the sun will come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow,” the president is screwed, or Abu Ali is a big fan of Annie. Maybe it is a hard knock life after all.

Aman Ali is a junior information design major, president of the Muslim Students Association and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].