Benghazi 'Mastermind' Cleared of Murder Charge

But Khattala could get life for other convictions
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 29, 2017 12:10 AM CST
Benghazi 'Mastermind' Not Guilty of Murder
This Oct. 2, 2017 courtroom sketch depicts Ahmed Abu Khattala listening to a interpreter during the opening statement by assistant US attorney John Crabb, second from left, at federal court in Washington.   (Dana Verkouteren via AP)

A Libyan militant was convicted Tuesday of terrorism charges stemming from the 2012 Benghazi attacks that killed the US ambassador and three other Americans. But a federal jury found him not guilty of murder, the most serious charge associated with the rampage he was accused of orchestrating. The attack became instant political fodder in the 2012 presidential campaign, with Republicans accusing the Obama administration of intentionally misleading the public. But the seven-week trial in Washington of Ahmed Abu Khattala, who was captured in 2014, was largely free of political intrigue, the AP reports. Jurors convicted Khattala on four counts, including providing material support for terrorism and destroying property and placing lives in jeopardy at the US compound, but acquitted him on 14 others.

Even with the mixed verdict, Khattala, 46, still faces the possibility of life imprisonment for his conviction on a federal firearms charge. Prosecutors accused Khattala of directing the attack aimed at killing personnel and plundering documents and other property from the US mission. But defense attorneys said their evidence against him was shoddy. Prosecutors acknowledged they lacked evidence to show Khattala personally fired any gunshots, but argued he orchestrated the violence out of his hatred for US freedoms and his suspicion that Americans were operating a spy base. Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed in the first attack at the US mission, along with Sean Patrick Smith, a State Department employee. Hours later at a CIA complex nearby, security officers Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty died in a mortar attack.

(More Ahmed Abu Khattalah stories.)

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