ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- A member of the jury that convicted an American Muslim student of plotting with Al Qaeda to assassinate President Bush said she was struck by the man's videotaped confession, in which he laughed and pantomimed the use of an assault rifle.
''It was very telling," Nancy Ramsden said Tuesday after the federal jury convicted 24-year-old Ahmed Omar Abu Ali on all counts. ''It was almost sort of a joke for him."
Abu Ali, a US citizen born to Jordanian parents, could get life in prison when he is sentenced Feb. 17 on charges including conspiracy to assassinate the president, conspiracy to hijack aircraft, and providing support to Al Qaeda.
The jury rejected his assertion that Saudi security officers whipped and tortured him into a false confession after his arrest in June 2003, when he was enrolled at the Islamic University of Medina.
Abu Ali, who was raised in Falls Church, Va., swallowed hard before the verdict was read but otherwise showed little emotion. The jury had deliberated for 2 1/2 days.
Abu Ali's lawyer, Khurrum Wahid, said he will appeal.
He said he thinks it's difficult for anyone to get a fair trial when the accusations involve Al Qaeda.
''I think the country went through a very traumatic event on Sept. 11, and it's very difficult for people to separate that from the facts in a particular case," Wahid said.
US Attorney Paul McNulty said in a statement that ''the evidence presented in this case firmly established Abu Ali as a dangerous terrorist who posed a grave threat to our national security. . . . It serves as a clear warning to all that terrorists can and will be brought to the bar of justice."
Jurors in the three-week trial saw a videotaped confession in which Abu Ali said he joined Al Qaeda because he hated the United States for its support of Israel.
Notes taken by his Saudi interrogators said he discussed numerous potential terror plots, but the one that most appealed to him was killing ''the leader of the infidels" -- President Bush.