Prosecutor: Khattala “hates America with a vengeance.”
The trial for Ahmed Abu Khattala, the alleged ringleader of the Benghazi, Libya, attack in September 2012, began today in Washington, D.C.
The attack killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. Khattala has stressed that “he was only a bystander” during the attack.
Beginning of the Trial
In his opening statement, federal prosecutor John Crabb said Khatallah hates America “with a vengeance” and played a leading role in organizing the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi.
Khatallah “didn’t do the killing by himself,” he said. “He didn’t light the fires and he didn’t fire the mortars but you will hear he is just as guilty as the men who lit those fires and the men who fired those mortars.”
Crabb said that Khatallah “incited others to do his dirty work.” The Washington Times reported that the prosecutors put forth evidence in their opening statements, which included “snippets of security footage that showed Mr. Abu Khatallah walking into the Benghazi mission with an AK-47 in hand after the gates to the complex”
The prosecutors also said they have a lineup of witnesses that will testify against Khatallah and explain how he prepared for the attack. This includes one key witness that the U.S. paid a hefty price for. The Washington Times continued:
One key witness, referred to as “Ali,” was paid $7 million by the U.S. government for providing information to investigators, Mr. Crabb said. Ali befriended Mr. Abu Khatallah after the attack at the request of the U.S. government and provided details about his whereabouts and ultimately arranged the 2014 trip during which the military captured Mr. Abu Khatallah.
Mr. Crabb said Ali will testify that at a meeting in Libya, Mr. Abu Khatallah said he “attacked the American embassy” and later told Ali privately that “he would have killed all the Americans that night … if others had not gotten involved and stopped me.”
Khatallah pleaded not guilty to 18 counts. These charges include “conspiracy, murder and material support of terrorists in the deaths of Stevens, State Department communications expert Sean Patrick Smith and security contractors Tyrone S. Woods and Glen Doherty.”
As Reuters pointed out, this trial “represents a high-profile test in the use of a federal court to try a foreign terrorism suspect, as opposed to holding him at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba where he would face military legal proceedings.”
U.S. Military commandos surrounded Khattala’s residence in Benghazi in June 2014 and captured him. One official said the capture “was pretty clean” and the suspect “was isolated.”
The joint Special Operations and FBI planned the mission “for months” and executed it after President Barack Obama approved it. No one released details of the operation.
The U.S. transported Khatallah on a Navy Ship, which took about 13 days to arrive back to the states. Reuters explained that U.S. intelligence officials questioned him before anyone read him “his Miranda rights and questioned by FBI agents.” Reuters continued:
He waived his rights to remain silent and have a lawyer present before speaking with the agents. His attorneys had sought to suppress the statements, saying the government had violated his rights.
However, U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Cooper issued a lengthy ruling in August that found his statements could be admitted at trial.
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