The 25-year-old was found guilty last November on nine counts of plotting to kill Mr Bush, conspiracy to hijack a plane and offering to aid Osama bin Laden’s terrorism network.
Prosecutors had asked for life imprisonment for Abu Ali, who was convicted largely based on a taped confession which his lawyers said came after he was tortured in Saudi Arabia.
Abu Ali is a “fanatical Al-Qaeda terrorist” who “sought to duplicate” the attacks of September 11, 2001, and “aimed at murdering thousands of innocent civil victims, even the president of the United States,” said government attorney David Laufman.
However, Judge Gerald Bruce Lee rejected the call for a life sentence, noting that Abu Ali had never taken any action toward these ends.
“He didn’t take any step in the US,” the judge said.
Abu Ali left the court, head lowered, without comment after the sentence was pronounced.
“Everything is in the hands of God. We know that if God wants, sooner or later Ahmed will be released,” his father Omar Abu Ali said.
Abu Ali’s case drew strong protests from human rights groups who argued that his videotaped confession, on which the prosecution relied almost exclusively, had been obtained following torture in Saudi Arabia.
But Judge Lee admitted the confessions as evidence over the defence’s objections, leading to Abu Ali’s conviction last November 22 after a three-day trial.
The son of Jordanian parents, Abu Ali was born in Texas and grew up in Falls Church, Virginia, a Washington suburb.
While a student at the Islamic University of Medina in Saudi Arabia, he was detained in a sweep following bomb attacks in Riyadh on May 12, 2003 that left 34 dead.
He was held in Saudi Arabia until February 2005, when he was handed over to US authorities based on his confession.
Amnesty International criticised the verdict, saying the case was unfair because Abu Ali had not been able to submit evidence backing his claim that the confession was the result of torture.