Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, 25, was found guilty on all nine counts in November, including conspiracy to hijack a plane. The Arab-American student was held in Saudi Arabia in 2003 and reportedly confessed to membership of al-Qaeda. His defence team said he was tortured and forced to confess, but the judge refused to disallow the confession.
"The court is sentencing you to 360 months, which is 30 years in prison," said US District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee in Alexandria, Virginia.
Prosecutors had sought a life sentence, but Judge Lee said that Abu Ali's actions "did not result in one single actual victim" and no weapons were found in his possession.
"That fact must be taken into account," the judge said.
Abu Ali was detained in Saudi Arabia in June 2003 and held there until February 2005, when he was returned to the US and charged. Prosecutors alleged that he aimed to establish an al-Qaeda cell similar to the one that carried out the 11 September 2001 attacks. The charges said Abu Ali would shoot Mr Bush on the street or detonate a car bomb. Prosecutors said that he made contact with al-Qaeda while studying at university in Medina, Saudi Arabia, in 2001.
In Saudi Arabia, he signed confessions and made statements admitting to the plot against Mr Bush and to having ties to an al-Qaeda cell. But in court he pleaded not guilty to the charges, saying he made up the confessions after being tortured by Saudi authorities. Prosecutors denied he was mistreated.
Abu Ali was born in Houston and raised in Falls Church, Virginia.
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