Menu
Home

Politics

State Department

Benghazi attack suspect Khatallah must remain in custody, judge rules

 

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the Libyan militant charged in the 2012 deadly attacks in Benghazi, Libya, will remain in a U.S. detention center until his trial.

Federal prosecutors made the request, saying they have witnesses, forensic evidence and statements by Ahmed Abu Khatallah linking him to the terror attacks, in which four Americans were killed at a U.S. outpost in Benghazi.

They also said he was commander of an armed militia and has no ties in the United States.

The ruling was made by Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson, who also told Khatallah’s court-appointed lawyers that they reserve the right to revisit the issue.

A defense lawyer attempted to dismiss prosecutors’ arguments that his client was armed when captured by U.S. special forces, saying many people in Libya carry a weapon. The defense team also argued it had only limited and recent access to the prosecution evidence.

The court appearance for Khatallah, unshackled and dressed in a green jumpsuit, was his second since his capture and arrival last week in the United States.

He requested a copy of the Koran and Halal foods, which Muslims are allowed to eat under Islamic Shariah law.

The next hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.

Khatallah made his original appearance Saturday at the same federal court in Washington, D.C.

In court papers filed Tuesday night, the U.S. Attorney's office in Washington said Khatallah has continued to target Americans with deadly and destructive intentions since the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks.

The court papers described in general terms the case prosecutors plan to bring against Khatallah. They say after U.S. personnel evacuated the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Khatallah entered the compound and supervised the collection of material found at the scene.

Khatallah returned to a camp in Benghazi controlled by Ansar al-Shariah, where a large armed group began assembling to attack the mission's annex.

In Khatallah's first court appearance, his court-appointed lawyer, Michele Peterson, entered the not guilty plea to one count of providing material support to terrorists.

U.S. Magistrate Judge John Facciola ordered Khatallah’s continued detention. He was taken to a facility in Alexandria, Va., following the hearing.

The indictment against Khatallah was handed up under seal on Thursday and was made public Saturday.

He was indicted by a federal grand jury on the charge of conspiracy to provide material support and resources to terrorists, knowing and intending that these would be used in preparation for and in carrying out a killing in the course of an attack on a federal facility, and the offense resulted in death. 

It is likely that additional charges will be filed against Khatallah.

Khatallah was flown to Washington by helicopter shortly after sunrise Saturday from a Navy warship, where he had been held since his capture nearly two weeks ago.

Khatallah is accused of being involved in the Sept. 11, 2012, attack in Libya that led to the deaths of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, information officer Sean Smith, and former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.

Special Operations Forces captured Khatallah during a nighttime raid in Libya June 15-16, marking the first breakthrough in the investigation of the Benghazi attacks.

U.S. authorities have said they are looking to identify and capture additional co-conspirators.

Khatallah, a prominent figure in Benghazi's circles of extremists who was popular among young radicals, acknowledged in an interview with The Associated Press in January that he was present during the storming of the U.S. mission in Benghazi. But he denied involvement in the attack, saying he was trying to organize a rescue of trapped people.

During Tuesday’s proceedings, Khatallah appeared calm and sat quietly with his hands in his lap, not interacting with his lawyer or the translator unless spoken to first. He scanned the courtroom at the start of the proceedings as officials tried to figure out the translation equipment.  

Fox News' Catherine Herridge, Shayla Bezdrob and The Associated Press contributed to this report.