Benghazi attack suspect Ahmed Abu Khatallah pleads not guilty to murder
Ahmed Abu Khatallah, a Libyan militant accused of participating in the September 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, pleaded not guilty on Monday to 17 new charges related to the attack, including some that carry the death penalty.
Khatallah appeared at the brief hearing wearing a green prison jumpsuit with his hair trimmed but long beard intact. He did not speak, and his lawyer, public defender Michelle Peterson, entered the plea on his behalf.
On Monday, federal prosecutor Michael DiLorenzo also suggested the government may charge additional defendants in the case. When asked by U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper whether the prosecution would remain a one-defendant case, DiLorenzo said only that the investigation was ongoing.
Khatallah was captured in Libya in June by a U.S. military and FBI team and transported to the United States aboard a U.S. Navy ship to face an indictment in Washington federal court that accused him of conspiring to support terrorists.
Four Americans were killed in the September 2012 attack, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens. The attack ignited a political firestorm in Washington that could still resonate if Hillary Clinton, secretary of state at the time, runs for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016.
Republicans accused Clinton of failing to put in place security measures to protect U.S. personnel in Libya.
Prosecutors brought the new charges against Khatallah last week, including murder of an “internationally protected person,” and killing a person during an attack on a federal facility involving the use of a firearm.
The judge has not indicted when the case might go to trial.
On Monday, DiLorenzo sparred with Peterson over whether the government was turning over enough information about the case, and whether it was unnecessarily redacting documents.
DiLorenzo said Khatallah’s lawyers had received between 60 and 80 percent of what the U.S. Attorney’s office in Washington, which is prosecuting the case, had, including several thousand pages of documents and more than 130 hours of video.
Peterson dismissed that estimate as “completely inappropriate.” “We should have everything they have,” she said.
The next hearing in the case is scheduled for December 9.
(Reporting by Aruna Viswanatha; Editing by Doina Chiacu)