Ahmed Abu Khattala, seen here at a hearing in 2014, faced the death penalty if convicted of the most serious charges in connection with the Benghazi attack
(Dana Verkouteren via AP / file)
A federal jury found Ahmed Abu Khattala guilty of only three of the 18 charges related to the 2012 deadly attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which prevented him from facing the death penalty.
Khattala was found guilty of conspiracy to provide material support to the attackers, destroy US property. UU and put lives in danger, and use firearms during the attack. He faces up to 45 years in prison if he is granted the maximum sentence in all charges.
The verdict ended a trial that had been one of the most important terrorism prosecutions in recent years in a US civil court, although the Trump administration had argued that such suspects were better sent to military prison in Guantánamo, Cuba.
The director of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, called the verdict "a small measure of justice" for the attacks, which became a political lightning rod. The Barack Obama administration intentionally deceived the public and obstructed the investigators of Congress. An investigation into the attack led to the revelation of the private email server of then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
"It took intelligence to find him, soldiers to help capture him, law enforcement forces to interview him and a legal team to evict him," Pompeo said in a statement. "Khatallah's sentence [sic] is as follows, but no prison term will return our people."
The initial attack killed in the US mission killed Chris Stevens, the US ambbadador in Libya, and Sean Patrick Smith, an Official State Information Management Department. Almost eight hours later, in a nearby CIA compound, two more Americans, security agents hired Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, died in a mortar attack.
Prosecutors had claimed that Khattala had planned the ambush for at least a year and served as "commander on stage" for a gang of armed men who badaulted the compound with the aim of killing US personnel and looting maps, documents and other properties of the mail.
"I saw the United States, which promoted freedom, as the cause of all the problems in the world," Assistant US Attorney Michael C. DiLorenzo told the jury in the final arguments earlier this month. "He was there to kill Americans, and that's exactly what he and his men did."
Defense attorney Michelle Peterson described Khattala as a "Libyan patriot" who fought on behalf of the United States in the war against the late Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi. She described Khattala as a deeply religious man who believes in conservative sharia as described in the Koran, which "is not the same as terrorism," he said.
Peterson also cast doubt on government witnesses, in particular an informant who was paid $ 7 million to befriend Khattala, help the government gather information about him and organize his capture. The informant helped link Khattala to the attackers, and prosecutors said they were seen in grainy surveillance video about the compound with weapons.
Among other people that the informant identified was Mustafa al-Imam, who was captured last month and awaits trial in the same federal court in Washington.
Jake Gibson of Fox News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.