The only suspect to be put on trial for the 2012 attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya was found guilty today of terrorism-related charges, but was acquitted of the more serious murder charges, according to news reports.
Ahmed Abu Khatallah, 46, was convicted on four of the 18 charges against him, including providing material support to a terrorist organization, according to The New York Times. He could face decades in prison.
After the verdict was announced, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said in a statement, “Today, a small measure of justice was meted out. A federal jury convicted Ahmed Abu Khatallah for the terror he inflicted upon the patriotic men and women -- from the State Department and CIA -- in Benghazi, Libya on the night of September 11, 2012. It took intelligence to find him, soldiers to assist in capturing him, law enforcement to interview him, and a legal team to put him away."
"Khatallah’s sentencing is to follow; but no term in prison will bring our people back," Pompeo continued. "We lost two of our own that night -- Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods -- who ran to the sound of the guns and bravely fought to protect Americans and the two U.S. facilities that were attacked. Also murdered were Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and Sean Smith – remarkable diplomats who volunteered to serve our nation in a dangerous place.”
Doherty and Woods were former Navy SEALs and CIA contractors who were killed defending a CIA facility in Benghazi. Glen Doherty's brother, Greg Doherty, told Code and Dagger at the outset of Khatallah's trial that he was hoping for "some kind of justice" by the end.
The trial for Khatallah, a Libyan citizen from Benghazi, lasted seven weeks. Prosecutors painted Khatallah as a key plotter in the attack that claimed four American lives and became a political lightning rod for years afterward.
"You will not hear the defendant was involved in the initial charge on the [U.S. diplomatic] mission. You will not hear that he lit the match... You will not hear that he fired the mortar. It does not matter," Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael C. DiLorenzo said, according to The Washington Post. "Because a person is equally guilty as an individual who lit the match or fired a mortar, if they are a co-conspirator or an aider and abettor."
The prosecution's argument was propped up by the testimony of three paid Libyan informants, one of whom reportedly received $7 million from the U.S. for his role in luring Khatallah to his capture by U.S. special operations forces in Libya in 2014. One of the informants quoted Khatallah as allegedly confessing in 2013 that he wanted to "kill everybody there [in Benghazi]," according to the Post.
The defense, meanwhile, said the U.S. government was trying to use Khatallah -- who was the only Benghazi suspect of dozens in custody when his trial began -- as a scapegoat and argued that all three informants had striking credibility problems. Assistant Federal Public Defender Michelle Peterson also said the prosecution was playing on the jury's emotions.
"They want you to hate him. That's what this case has been about. They want you to hate him enough to disregard holes in the evidence," Peterson said.
Before he was captured, Khatallah reportedly told a journalist he didn't have anything to do with the attack and only arrived at the compound with his men to "bring order" to the disturbance.
With its decision today, the Washington, D.C. jury said they didn't buy it.
Primary Source: Indictment Against Ahmed Abu Khatallah (PDF)
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