Benghazi Attack Suspect Cleared of Murder, Found Guilty on 4 Terror Charges

Ahmed Abu Khatallah

A US jury found Ahmed Abu Khatallah guilty on four of 18 charges on Tuesday related to his role in the 2012 terrorist attack on a US diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, that killed US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

A federal jury came back with a guilty verdict for the following counts:

  • Conspiracy to provide material support and resources to terrorists.
  • Providing material support and resources to terrorists.
  • Using, carrying and discharging a semi-automatic assault rifle during a crime of violence.
  • Maliciously destroying and injuring dwellings and property, and placing lives in jeopardy within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, and attempting to do the same.

The jury found Abu Khatallah not guilty on the four murder charges of the US personnel killed in the September 2012 attack on the US office in Benghazi.

Abu Khatallah, wearing a white shirt untucked with his sleeves rolled up and a white beard, stood and faced the jury emotionless as the verdicts were read.

He faces at least 10 years up to life in prison for his conviction on the four charges according to the Department of Justice.

While it convicted Abu Khatallah on two terrorism material-support charges, the jury returned a special finding that his actions did not result in death, which would have carried life sentences. Instead the counts carry possible sentences of up to 15 years each.

Additionally, he faces up to 20 years for his actions at the US mission of maliciously destroying and injuring dwellings and property, and placing lives in jeopardy. The verdict on the final count — using and carrying a semiautomatic weapon during a crime of violence — carries a mandatory 10-year minimum sentence.

In 2016, the Justice Department announced it would not pursue the death penalty against Abu Khatallah — opting instead for a maximum sentence of life in prison.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo sent a message to CIA employees following today’s Benghazi verdict, saying: “Today, a small measure of justice was meted out.” Two of those killed were CIA contractors.

Tuesday’s verdict was handed down after eight weeks of testimony at a US District Court in Washington, during which prosecutors argued that Abu Khatallah was a “stone-cold terrorist” who was driven by a desire to kill Americans.

“Ladies and gentlemen, he hates America, and that’s why he committed this attack,” federal prosecutor Michael DiLorenzo told the jury in his closing argument.

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SOURCE: CNN, Zachary Cohen and David Shortell