Ahmed Abu Khatallah stood accused of being the mastermind behind the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the attack. Khatallah was acquitted Tuesday of the most serious charges.
Khatallah had been charged with 18 counts that covered the four murders, conspiring to provide material support to terrorists, and destroying U.S. property. The murder charges carried the death penalty.
He was acquitted of 14 of the 18 charges. Though he still faces a possible sentence of 60 years in prison, his acquittal comes as a surprise to many who felt like the case was sure to bring a conviction.
As for the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, Khatallah won’t answer for those.
“Khatalla, 46, was captured by US special forces in June 2014,” The Daily Mail writes, “and shipped to the US on a naval vessel, where he was held in Alexandra, Virginia.”
The prosecution claimed Khattala had driven militants to the gate protecting the diplomatic mission. There, as many as 20 militants began an attack on the embassy.
In the first wave, Ambassador Stevens and communications specialist Sean Smith were killed.
“Prosecutors say Khattala supervised the plunder of sensitive information from that building, then returned to a camp in Benghazi where a large group began assembling for an attack on a second building known as the annex,” The Mail writes.
Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed in the second wave.
Khatallah’s trial included testimony from many who were close to him. One man, going by the name of Ali Majrisi, was reportedly paid $7 million to produce evidence against him and lure him to where he could be captured.
Though the testimony was emotional, it wasn’t enough.
“You have not heard that he lit the match,” prosecutor Michael DiLorenzo said Thursday. “You have not heard that he fired the mortars.” Still, DiLorenzo claimed, the man was “equally as guilty.”
Khatallah’s lawyer, Michelle Peterson, painted a different picture. “They want you to hate him,” she said. “Mr. Abu Khatallah is not guilty of these charges.”
Those sentiments from Peterson were honored by the jury who acquitted him of the murder charges.