Judge: Libyan militant to remain in US custody

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
20 PHOTOS
Benghazi suspect hearing
See Gallery
Judge: Libyan militant to remain in US custody
FILE - This undated file image obtained from Facebook shows Ahmed Abu Khattala, an alleged leader of the deadly 2012 attacks on Americans in Benghazi, Libya, who was captured by U.S. special forces on Sunday, June 15, 2014, on the outskirts of Benghazi. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office said Saturday, June 28, 2014 that Khattala is in federal law enforcement custody. There is heightened security at Washington’s federal courthouse. (AP Photo, File)
RETRANSMISSION FOR ALTERNATE CROP: This artist's rendering shows United States Magistrate, Judge John Facciola, swearing in the defendant, Libyan militant Ahmed Abu Khatallah, wearing a headphone, as his attorney Michelle Peterson looks on during a hearing at the federal U.S. District Court in Washington, Saturday, June 28, 2014. The hearing of the Libyan accused of masterminding deadly Benghazi attacks, lasted ten minutes; he pled not guilty to conspiracy Saturday at his first appearance in U.S. court. (AP Photo/Dana Verkouteren)
U.S. Marshalls move outside the federal U.S. District Court in Washington Saturday, June 28, 2014, after security was heightened in anticipation of a possible court appearance by captured Libyan militant Ahmed Abu Khattala later in the day. Khatallah is one of the men accused in the deadly Benghazi attack at the U.S. embassy in Libya. He faces criminal charges in the deaths of the US ambassador to Libya and three other Americans from the Sept. 11, 2012, attack. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael DiLorenzo, center, lead prosecutor in the federal case against Libyan militant Ahmed Abu Khattala, accused of masterminding the deadly Benghazi attacks, enters the federal U.S. District Court in Washington Saturday, June 28, 2014, with his team. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
U.S. Marshalls guard the area outside of the federal U.S. District Court in Washington Saturday, June 28, 2014, after security was heightened in anticipation of a possible court appearance by captured Libyan militant Ahmed Abu Khattala later in the day. Khatallah is one of the men accused in the deadly Benghazi attack at the U.S. embassy in Libya. He faces criminal charges in the deaths of the US ambassador to Libya and three other Americans from the Sept. 11, 2012, attack. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
U.S. Marshalls move outside of the federal U.S. District Court in Washington Saturday, June 28, 2014, after security at the court was heightened in anticipation of a possible court appearance by captured Libyan militant Ahmed Abu Khattala later in the day. Khatallah is one of the men accused in the deadly Benghazi attack at the U.S. embassy in Libya. He faces criminal charges in the deaths of the US ambassador to Libya and three other Americans from the Sept. 11, 2012, attack. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
The motorcade transporting the Libyan militant Ahmed Abu Khattala, charged in the deadly Benghazi attack at the U.S. embassy in Lybia, leaves the federal U.S. District Court in Washington Saturday, June 28, 2014, after Khattala pleaded not guilty to conspiracy at his first appearance in court in the United States. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
The motorcade transporting the Libyan militant Ahmed Abu Khattala, accused of masterminding the deadly Benghazi attack at the U.S. embassy, leaves the federal U.S. District Court in Washington Saturday, June 28, 2014, after Khattala pleaded not guilty to conspiracy at his first court appearance in the United States. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
A U.S. Marshall stands guard outside of the federal U.S. District Court in Washington Saturday, June 28, 2014, after security outside the court was heightened in anticipation of a possible court appearance by captured Libyan militant Ahmed Abu Khattala later in the day. Khatallah is one of the men accused in the deadly Benghazi attack at the U.S. embassy in Libya. He faces criminal charges in the deaths of the US ambassador to Libya and three other Americans from the Sept. 11, 2012, attack. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
The motorcade transporting the Libyan militant Ahmed Abu Khattala, charged in the deadly Benghazi attack at the U.S. embassy, leaves the federal U.S. District Court in Washington Saturday, June 28, 2014, after Khattala pleaded not guilty to conspiracy at his first appearance in federal court in the United States. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
The motorcade transporting the Libyan militant Ahmed Abu Khattala, charged in the deadly Benghazi attack at the U.S. embassy, leaves the federal U.S. District Court in Washington Saturday, June 28, 2014, after Khattala pleaded not guilty to conspiracy at his first appearance in court in the United States. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 02: U.S. Marshals patrol the outside of the Prettyman Federal Court Court where Ahmed Abu Khattala, one of the suspected ringleaders of the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, is being held before his pretrial detention hearing July 2, 2014 in Washington, DC. Abu Khattala was seized June 15 in Libya by U.S. Special Operations forces, 21 months after U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed during an attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 02: U.S. Marshals patrol the outside of the Prettyman Federal Court Building where Ahmed Abu Khattala, one of the suspected ringleaders of the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, is being held before his pretrial detention hearing July 2, 2014 in Washington, DC. Abu Khattala was seized June 15 in Libya by U.S. Special Operations forces, 21 months after U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed during an attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 17: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) talks to reporters after the Senate Democratic policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol June 17, 2014 in Washington, DC. Reid congratulated the members of the U.S. military who captured Ahmed Abu Khattala who was wanted for involvement in the 2011 attack that killed Ambasador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 17: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) talks to reporters after the Senate Democratic policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol June 17, 2014 in Washington, DC. Reid congratulated the members of the U.S. military who captured Ahmed Abu Khattala who was wanted for involvement in the 2011 attack that killed Ambasador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael DiLorenzo, right, lead prosecutor in the federal case against Libyan militant Ahmed Abu Khattala, who stands accused of masterminding the deadly Benghazi attacks, enters the federal U.S. District Court in Washington Saturday, June 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
US Marshals patrol the area outside federal court in Washington, Wednesday, July 2, 2014, where Libyan militant Ahmed Abu Khattala, charged in the deadly attack at the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, is being held for a detention hearing. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael DiLorenzo, left, lead prosecutor in the federal case against Libyan militant Ahmed Abu Khattala, accused of masterminding the deadly Benghazi attacks, leaves the federal court in Washington, Wednesday, July 2, 2014. Khattala faced a court appearance where federal prosecutors will argue why he should remain in detention. The hearing for Ahmed Abu Khattala is before Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
The motorcade transporting the Libyan militant Ahmed Abu Khattala, accused of masterminding the deadly Benghazi attack at the U.S. embassy, leaves the federal U.S. District Court in Washington Saturday, June 28, 2014, after pleading not guilty to conspiracy at his first appearance in court in the United States. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION


By Eric Tucker

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A lawyer for a Libyan militant charged in the 2012 Benghazi attacks said Wednesday that she had seen no evidence tying her client to the violence, but a judge nonetheless directed Ahmed Abu Khattala to remain in custody as the Justice Department builds its case against him.

The lawyer, Michelle Peterson, conceded that Abu Khattala had no reasonable chance of being released at the moment, given the terrorism-related charge he faces and his lack of ties to the United States. But she also argued that prosecutors had failed to show, in their broad and initial outlines of the case, that he was in any way connected to the Sept. 11, 2012 attacks that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

"What's been filed has shown, quite frankly, an utter lack of evidence of Mr. Khattala's involvement in the incident in Benghazi," said Peterson, an assistant federal public defender. "We are left to glean from press reports what the government's evidence is."

Abu Khattala appeared in court wearing a green prison jumpsuit and with a long, graying beard. He listened to the proceedings through headphones as an interpreter translated the conversation into Arabic. Peterson requested that while in jail he be served a halal diet and be provided a copy of the Quran.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael DiLorenzo recited some of the basic allegations of the case, telling U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson that there were no conditions under which Abu Khattala could be released that would ensure the safety of the community.

Though the outcome of the detention hearing was never in doubt, it did afford Abu Khattala's lawyer an opportunity to publicly contest certain of the government's allegations. Peterson questioned, for instance, the relevance of prosecutors' assertions that Abu Khattala had a loaded firearm at the time of his arrest and suggested it would not be unusual to be armed in a nation riven by strife and violence

The court appearance was the second in the last week for Abu Khattala, who was captured on June 15 by U.S. special forces and then transported to the United States aboard a Navy boat where federal agents interrogated him. He has pleaded not guilty to a single count of conspiring to provide support to terrorists, a crime punishable by up to life in prison, but the Justice Department has said it expects to bring additional charges soon that could reveal more information about the case.

Prosecutors this week disclosed some additional details of their case against Abu Khattala as the Libyan, believed to be about 43 years old, remains held without bond.

They alleged in a court filing that he was motivated to participate in the attacks by an extremist ideology and that, in the days before the fiery assault, had spoken out against the presence of the American compound in Benghazi.

The government says Abu Khattala was a commander of Abu Obaida bin Jarrah Brigade, an extremist group that was absorbed into Ansar al-Sharia after the recent Libyan revolution. The State Department has designated Ansar al-Sharia as a foreign terrorist organization.

On the night of the attacks, the government says, at least 20 militants - armed with Ak-47s and grenade launchers - breached the gate of the consulate compound and set buildings on fire. Once U.S. personnel evacuated the diplomatic mission, Khattala entered and "supervised the exploitation of material at the scene," prosecutors say.

The fire led to the deaths of Stevens and Information Management Officer Sean Patrick Smith. Other State Department personnel escaped to a nearby U.S. facility known as the annex.

Khattala then returned to a camp in Benghazi controlled by Ansar al-Sharia, where a large armed group began assembling for an attack on the annex, according to the court papers. The attack on that facility, including a precision mortar barrage, resulted in the deaths of security officers Tyrone Snowden Woods and Glen Anthony Doherty.

A status conference is set for next week.

----

Associated Press writer Pete Yost contributed to this report.

Read Full Story

People are Reading