US jury acquits accused Benghazi attack organizer of most serious charges

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. jury on Tuesday acquitted accused Islamic militant Ahmed Abu Khatallah of the most serious charges he faced in connection with a 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

The jury in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found Khatallah guilty on only four of the 18 counts he faced and acquitted him on murder and other charges, according to the Justice Department.

He was convicted on one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, one count of providing material support to terrorists, one count of maliciously destroying property and one count of using and carrying a semiautomatic weapon during a violent crime, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia.

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US consulate attack in Benghazi
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US consulate attack in Benghazi
A protester reacts as the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames during a protest by an armed group said to have been protesting a film being produced in the United States September 11, 2012. REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori/File Photo
An exterior view of the U.S. consulate, which was attacked and set on fire by gunmen yesterday, in Benghazi September 12, 2012. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three embassy staff were killed as they rushed away from the consulate building, stormed by al Qaeda-linked gunmen blaming America for a film that they said insulted the Prophet Mohammad. Stevens was trying to leave the consulate building for a safer location as part of an evacuation when gunmen launched an intense attack, apparently forcing security personnel to withdraw. REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori (LIBYA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)
Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, smiles at his home in Tripoli June 28, 2012. Stevens and three embassy staff were killed late on September 11, 2012, as they rushed away from a consulate building in Benghazi, stormed by al Qaeda-linked gunmen blaming America for a film that they said insulted the Prophet Mohammad. Stevens was trying to leave the consulate building for a safer location as part of an evacuation when gunmen launched an intense attack, apparently forcing security personnel to withdraw. Picture taken June 28, 2012. REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori (LIBYA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST OBITUARY)
The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames during a protest by an armed group said to have been protesting a film being produced in the United States September 11, 2012. REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori/File Photo
A man walks inside the U.S. consulate, which was attacked and set on fire by gunmen yesterday, in Benghazi September 12, 2012. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three embassy staff were killed as they rushed away from the consulate building, stormed by al Qaeda-linked gunmen blaming America for a film that they said insulted the Prophet Mohammad. Stevens was trying to leave the consulate building for a safer location as part of an evacuation when gunmen launched an intense attack, apparently forcing security personnel to withdraw. REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori (LIBYA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
The remains of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans killed in an attack in Libya are taken off a transport aircraft during a return of remains ceremony at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, September 14, 2012. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and the other Americans died after gunmen attacked the lightly fortified U.S. consulate and a safe house refuge in Benghazi on Tuesday night. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE
The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames during a protest by an armed group said to have been protesting a film being produced in the United States September 11, 2012. An American staff member of the U.S. consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi has died following fierce clashes at the compound, Libyan security sources said on Wednesday. Armed gunmen attacked the compound on Tuesday evening, clashing with Libyan security forces before the latter withdrew as they came under heavy fire. REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori (LIBYA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)
(L-R) Tom Stevens, Anne Stevens, M.D., and Hilary Stevens Koziol, M.D., siblings of slain U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, speak during a public memorial service in San Francisco, California October 16, 2012. Hundreds of mourners are expected to fill a marble rotunda in San Francisco's City Hall on Tuesday for a public memorial to Stevens, who was killed along with three other American embassy staff in a militant attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya last month. REUTERS/Stephen Lam (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS OBITUARY)
The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames during a protest by an armed group said to have been protesting a film being produced in the United States September 11, 2012. An American staff member of the U.S. consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi has died following fierce clashes at the compound, Libyan security sources said on Wednesday. Armed gunmen attacked the compound on Tuesday evening, clashing with Libyan security forces before the latter withdrew as they came under heavy fire. REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori (LIBYA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies on the September attacks on U.S. diplomatic sites in Benghazi, Libya, during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington January 23, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)
The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames during a protest by an armed group said to have been protesting a film being produced in the United States September 11, 2012. An American staff member of the U.S. consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi has died following fierce clashes at the compound, Libyan security sources said on Wednesday. Armed gunmen attacked the compound on Tuesday evening, clashing with Libyan security forces before the latter withdrew as they came under heavy fire. REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori (LIBYA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)
The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames during a protest by an armed group said to have been protesting a film being produced in the United States September 11, 2012. An American staff member of the U.S. consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi has died following fierce clashes at the compound, Libyan security sources said on Wednesday. Armed gunmen attacked the compound on Tuesday evening, clashing with Libyan security forces before the latter withdrew as they came under heavy fire. REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori (LIBYA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)
An interior view of the U.S. consulate, which was attacked and set on fire by gunmen yesterday, in Benghazi September 12, 2012. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three embassy staff were killed as they rushed away from the consulate building, stormed by al Qaeda-linked gunmen blaming America for a film that they said insulted the Prophet Mohammad. Stevens was trying to leave the consulate building for a safer location as part of an evacuation when gunmen launched an intense attack, apparently forcing security personnel to withdraw. REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori (LIBYA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames during a protest by an armed group said to have been protesting a film being produced in the United States September 11, 2012. An American staff member of the U.S. consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi has died following fierce clashes at the compound, Libyan security sources said on Wednesday. Armed gunmen attacked the compound on Tuesday evening, clashing with Libyan security forces before the latter withdrew as they came under heavy fire. REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori (LIBYA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames during a protest by an armed group said to have been protesting a film being produced in the United States September 11, 2012. An American staff member of the U.S. consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi has died following fierce clashes at the compound, Libyan security sources said on Wednesday. Armed gunmen attacked the compound on Tuesday evening, clashing with Libyan security forces before the latter withdrew as they came under heavy fire. REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori (LIBYA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)
A mourner holds a program during a public memorial service for slain U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens in San Francisco, California October 16, 2012. Hundreds of mourners are expected to fill a marble rotunda in San Francisco's City Hall on Tuesday for a public memorial to Stevens, who was killed along with three other American embassy staff in a militant attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya last month. REUTERS/Stephen Lam (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS OBITUARY)
A burning car is seen at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi during a protest by an armed group said to have been protesting a film being produced in the United States September 11, 2012. An American staff member of the U.S. consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi has died following fierce clashes at the compound, Libyan security sources said on Wednesday. Armed gunmen attacked the compound on Tuesday evening, clashing with Libyan security forces before the latter withdrew as they came under heavy fire. REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori (LIBYA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)
Damage at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen during a protest by an armed group said to have been protesting a film being produced in the United States September 11, 2012. An American staff member of the U.S. consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi has died following fierce clashes at the compound, Libyan security sources said on Wednesday. Armed gunmen attacked the compound on Tuesday evening, clashing with Libyan security forces before the latter withdrew as they came under heavy fire. REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori (LIBYA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)
The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames during a protest by an armed group said to have been protesting a film being produced in the United States September 11, 2012. An American staff member of the U.S. consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi has died following fierce clashes at the compound, Libyan security sources said on Wednesday. Armed gunmen attacked the compound on Tuesday evening, clashing with Libyan security forces before the latter withdrew as they came under heavy fire. REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori (LIBYA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)
Damage at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen during a protest by an armed group said to have been protesting a film being produced in the United States September 11, 2012. An American staff member of the U.S. consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi has died following fierce clashes at the compound, Libyan security sources said on Wednesday. Armed gunmen attacked the compound on Tuesday evening, clashing with Libyan security forces before the latter withdrew as they came under heavy fire. REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori (LIBYA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)
Cameras from news photographers surround a table before the arrival of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to testify on the September attack on U.S. diplomatic sites in Benghazi, Libya, during a hearing held by the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington January 23, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
An exterior view of the U.S. consulate, which was attacked and set on fire by gunmen yesterday, in Benghazi September 12, 2012. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three embassy staff were killed as they rushed away from the consulate building, stormed by al Qaeda-linked gunmen blaming America for a film that they said insulted the Prophet Mohammad. Stevens was trying to leave the consulate building for a safer location as part of an evacuation when gunmen launched an intense attack, apparently forcing security personnel to withdraw. REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori (LIBYA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)
An interior view of the damage at the U.S. consulate, which was attacked and set on fire by gunmen yesterday, in Benghazi September 12, 2012. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three embassy staff were killed as they rushed away from the consulate building, stormed by al Qaeda-linked gunmen blaming America for a film that they said insulted the Prophet Mohammad. Stevens was trying to leave the consulate building for a safer location as part of an evacuation when gunmen launched an intense attack, apparently forcing security personnel to withdraw. REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori (LIBYA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)
An interior view of the U.S. consulate, which was attacked and set on fire by gunmen yesterday, in Benghazi September 12, 2012. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three embassy staff were killed as they rushed away from the consulate building, stormed by al Qaeda-linked gunmen blaming America for a film that they said insulted the Prophet Mohammad. Stevens was trying to leave the consulate building for a safer location as part of an evacuation when gunmen launched an intense attack, apparently forcing security personnel to withdraw. REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori (LIBYA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) hugs Senator John McCain (R-AZ) as she arrives to testify on the September attack on U.S. diplomatic sites in Benghazi, Libya during a hearing held by the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington January 23, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)
People stand near a burnt car at the U.S. consulate, which was attacked and set on fire by gunmen yesterday, in Benghazi September 12, 2012. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three embassy staff were killed as they rushed away from the consulate building, stormed by al Qaeda-linked gunmen blaming America for a film that they said insulted the Prophet Mohammad. Stevens was trying to leave the consulate building for a safer location as part of an evacuation when gunmen launched an intense attack, apparently forcing security personnel to withdraw. REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori (LIBYA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)
White House staff are pictured after they lowered the U.S. flag to half staff on the roof of the White House in Washington September 12, 2012, following the death of U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens and others in Benghazi. Stevens and three embassy staff were killed in an attack on the Benghazi consulate and a safe house refuge, stormed by Islamist gunmen blaming America for a film they said insulted the Prophet Mohammad. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)
Patricia Smith, mother of Benghazi victim Sean Smith (pictured at right), addresses the Republican National Convention on July 18, 2016 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. The Republican Party opened its national convention, kicking off a four-day political jamboree that will anoint billionaire Donald Trump as its presidential nominee. / AFP / Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 11: Jennifer Brandt holds signs during a 'Call to Action' rally held by various conservative organizations on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, marking the one year anniversary of the attacks on the U.S. compound in Benghazi September 11, 2013 in Washington, DC. U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods were all killed during the attacks last year. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
MAY 27, 2013. SAN DIEGO, CA. Four WWII-era T-34 planes from the San Diego T-34 Performance Team fly over a crowd of about 2000 people gathered at the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial in San Diego, CA on Memorial Day, May 27, 2013. The ceremony honored former Navy SEAL members Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods who were killed durng the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya on 9/12/12. (Photo by Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
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The jury reached its verdict after five days of deliberations.

Khatallah is the first person to be tried in connection with the 2012 attack in Benghazi. A second person alleged to be involved, Mustafa al-Imam, made his first court appearance earlier this month.

The case marks a major test of the government's ability to capture and try alleged terrorists in civilian courts rather than military proceedings.

In a message to Central Intelligence Agency staff on Tuesday, Director Mike Pompeo said a "small measure of justice was meted out" by the verdict.

In this case, prosecutors acknowledged that Khatallah did not directly participate in the attack on the U.S. consulate or nearby CIA annex.

16 PHOTOS
Court hearings for accused Benghazi attack organizer Ahmed Abu Khatallah
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Court hearings for accused Benghazi attack organizer Ahmed Abu Khatallah
U.S. Federal Marshals patrol outside the U.S. federal courthouse in Washington June 28, 2014. Ahmed Abu Khatallah, the Libyan militia leader suspected in the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi that killed four Americans, was in federal custody on Saturday morning, according to the spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office for the District of Columbia Bill Miller. Miller would not comment on where Khatallah was being held, but there was there was heightened security around the federal courthouse building. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
A U.S. Federal Marshal secures the streets as the motorcade believed to be ferrying Libyan militia leader Ahmed Abu Khatallah drives past outside the U.S. federal court in Washington June 28, 2014. Khatallah pleaded not guilty in a U.S. federal court on Saturday to a terrorism charge in the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi that killed four Americans. Khatallah was transferred to the U.S. District Court in Washington on Saturday morning from a Navy warship where he had been held since his June 15 capture by U.S. special operations forces in Libya. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
A U.S. Federal Marshal secures the streets outside the U.S. federal court in Washington June 28, 2014. Libyan militia leader Ahmed Abu Khatallah pleaded not guilty in a U.S. federal court on Saturday to a terrorism charge in the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi that killed four Americans. Khatallah was transferred to the U.S. District Court in Washington on Saturday morning from a Navy warship where he had been held since his June 15 capture by U.S. special operations forces in Libya. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Ronald Machen (L) and members of his team depart after a hearing for Ahmed Abu Khatallah at the U.S. federal courthouse in Washington June 28, 2014. Khatallah, a Libyan militia leader, pleaded not guilty in federal court on Saturday to a federal terrorism charge in the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi that killed four Americans. Khatallah arrived at the U.S. District Court in Washington on Saturday morning and was charged with providing material support to terrorism at a hearing in U.S. District Court. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
A motorcade believed to be carrying Libyan militia leader Ahmed Abu Khatallah speeds away from the U.S. federal courthouse in Washington June 28, 2014. Khatallah pleaded not guilty in a U.S. federal court on Saturday to a terrorism charge in the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi that killed four Americans. Khatallah was transferred to the U.S. District Court in Washington on Saturday morning from a Navy warship where he had been held since his June 15 capture by U.S. special operations forces in Libya. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
A U.S. Federal Marshal stands guard as a black car believed to be carrying Ahmed Abu Khatallah speeds away from the U.S. federal courthouse in Washington June 28, 2014. Khatallah, a Libyan militia leader, pleaded not guilty in federal court on Saturday to a federal terrorism charge in the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi that killed four Americans. Khatallah arrived at the U.S. District Court in Washington on Saturday morning and was charged with providing material support to terrorism at a hearing in U.S. District Court. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
U.S. Federal Marshals patrol outside the U.S. federal courthouse in Washington June 28, 2014. Ahmed Abu Khatallah, the Libyan militia leader suspected in the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi that killed four Americans, was in federal custody on Saturday morning, according to the spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office for the District of Columbia Bill Miller. Miller would not comment on where Khatallah was being held, but there was there was heightened security around the federal courthouse building. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
U.S. Federal Marshals patrol outside the U.S. federal courthouse in Washington June 28, 2014. Ahmed Abu Khatallah, the Libyan militia leader suspected in the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi that killed four Americans, was in federal custody on Saturday morning, according to the spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office for the District of Columbia Bill Miller. Miller would not comment on where Khatallah was being held, but there was heightened security around the federal courthouse building. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
United States Marshals guard the area as the vehicle believed to be holding Benghazi terror suspect Ahmed Abu Khatallah enters the garage at the US District Court in Washington, DC, July 2, 2014. Abu Khatallah is the only detainee in the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi killed US ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans on September 11, 2012. AFP PHOTO / Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
United States Marshals move barricades as they prepare for the arrival of the vehicle believed to be holding Benghazi terror suspect Ahmed Abu Khatallah at the US District Court in Washington, DC, July 2, 2014. Abu Khatallah is the only detainee in the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi killed US ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans on September 11, 2012. AFP PHOTO / Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 20: Armed U.S. Marshals patrol around the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Court House where Benghazi suspect is to be arraigned, October 20, 2014 in Washington, DC. Ahmed Abu Khatallah is being arraigned October 20, on a 18 count indictment that charges him with murder while the leader of an extremist militia group that attacked the US compound in Benghazi.(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 20: Armed U.S. Marshals patrol around the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Court House where Benghazi suspect is to be arraigned, October 20, 2014 in Washington, DC. Ahmed Abu Khatallah is being arraigned October 20, on a 18 count indictment that charges him with murder while the leader of an extremist militia group that attacked the US compound in Benghazi.(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 28: Ronald C. Machen Jr., U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, left, and Vincent H. Cohen Jr., Principal Assistant U.S. Attorney leave the courthouse after the arraignment. Both are with the U.S. Attorneys Office for the District of Columbia, which is prosecuting Abu Ahmed Khatallah. Khatalla, one of the suspected Libyan ringleaders of the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi that killed four Americans, was arraigned at E. Barrett Prettyman United States Court House in Washington, DC on Saturday, June 28, 2014. (Photo by Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 28: U.S. Marshals provide extra security outside the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse in Washington D.C. on Saturday, June 28, 2014. Ahmed Abu Khattala, a Libyan thought to be responsible for the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi is being held in federal law enforcement custody. (Photo by Greg Kahn/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)
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Rather, they sought to convince the jury that he helped orchestrate it behind the scenes.

Khatallah was captured in 2014 by U.S. military and FBI officials in Libya and transported to the United States aboard a Navy vessel.

He was first questioned by U.S. intelligence officials and later by the FBI. Khatallah waived his right to speak first with an attorney, and prosecutors used his statements in the trial.

They also presented evidence including phone records showing that the defendant made calls to his associates right before they were captured on grainy videos participating in the attack and testimony from a variety of witnesses.

Defense attorneys for Khatallah said the witnesses lacked credibility, especially one witness who was paid $7 million to inform on their client and lure to him the place where he was captured.

Khatallah faces a statutory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison for each of the two terrorism charges, 20 years for the property destruction charge and 10 years for the firearms offense.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; additional reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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