A U.S. citizen who spent time in Saudi Arabia has been accused of conspiring with the al-Qaida terrorist network and taking part in a plot to assassinate President Bush.  A six-count indictment against the man was unsealed in a federal court outside Washington.

The indictment contends that Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, 23, a one-time resident of Virginia, pursued religious studies in Saudi Arabia in 2000 and returned to the kingdom in 2002 to aid and join forces with the al-Qaida network.

The document says Mr. Abu Ali discussed plans to assassinate President Bush with several unidentified co-conspirators.  The indictment said the accused man received a religious blessing to carry out the alleged plot that involved shooting the president or detonating an explosive. 

The indictment also says the defendant received weapons training and instruction in document falsification from known al-Qaida figures.

Saudi authorities detained Mr. Abu Ali in 2003 and held him until earlier this month, when he was transported to the United States to face charges.

The defendant did not enter a plea in his initial court appearance, but said he had been tortured while detained in Saudi Arabia, even offering to show the judge scars from alleged mistreatment.  The judge told Mr. Abu Ali he would not be tortured in any way while in federal custody.

Supporters of the defendant jeered and laughed when the charges were read in court.  Speaking with reporters afterward, one supporter characterized the charges as the latest in a coordinated campaign by U.S. authorities against Muslim citizens.

"This [indictment] is as bogus as it can be and the government knows that it is lying through its teeth.  Unfortunately, this [U.S.] Justice Department has really lost our respect as a community," he said.

News reports quote family members of the defendant as saying they believe he was held for an extended period of time in Saudi Arabia so that abusive interrogation methods could be used against him that would be illegal in the United States. 

U.S. officials have not commented on the matter.

If convicted, Mr. Abu Ali could face up to 80 years in prison.