The year is 2003. In Saudi Arabia, the semester at the university American-born Ahmed Abu-Ali is attending in Medina is coming to an end. It's exam time. Soon, he'll be on a jet headed for his family's home in Falls Church, Virginia.
But 23-year-old Abu-Ali never makes it to the airport. Or anywhere close. Instead he is arrested by Saudi security services "for questioning," and imprisoned. And that's where he would stay for the next twenty months. With no lawyer and no charge against him.
And where, Abu-Ali charges, he was routinely tortured, including the occasion when a "confession" was squeezed from him under extreme duress. It was a "confession" of a conspiracy to organize an Al Qaeda cell in the US, and to use guns or a suicide mission to kill the president of the United States.
At the same time, Abu-Ali's parents, naturalized US citizens living in Northern Virginia, find themselves crazed by the frustration of effectively having their son "disappeared" -- a victim of extraordinary rendition in plain sight -- and being unable to get a coherent story from either the Saudis, who are holding him, or the US, which they strongly suspect is apparently managing his incarceration.
Finally, in August 2004, after the FBI executed a search warrant on their home, Abu-Ali's parents' frustration reached a boiling point. They filed a habeas corpus lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia, seeking a legal justification of Abu-Ali's detention, and his ultimate release.
The legal team for the habeas action included high-profile constitutional rights scholar, Georgetown University law professor David Cole and other prominent civil rights lawyers, including Morton Sklar.
The government's position had been that Abu-Ali was too dangerous to be brought to the US. But then it dropped its legal IED. It flew Abu-Ali to the United States. This mooted Judge Bates's question, as lawyer Cassel put it, "whether the government could proceed upon secret evidence to block his return."