Accused leader of Benghazi embassy attack sentenced to 22 years

Accused leader of Benghazi embassy attack sentenced to 22 years

June 27 (UPI) — The first suspect to be charged in the 2012 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, was sentenced to 22 years in prison, the Justice Department announced on Wednesday.

Ahmed Abu Khatallah, a former auto mechanic who prosecutors accused of masterminding the attack that killed four Americans, was found guilty on Nov. 28 of several terrorism-related charges. But Khatallah was found not guilty of the more serious charges, including murder.

Khatallah was sentenced for conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, destroying property, placing lives in jeopardy within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States and one count of using and carrying a semiautomatic assault rifle during a crime of violence.

Despite Khatallah’s acquittal on the more serious charges, District Judge Christopher Cooper still could have imposed a life sentence based on the charges he was convicted of, but chose not to.

“Even if you did not pour the gasoline or light the match, the evidence showed you were aware of the attack, and once the gates were breached, the likelihood someone would die was extremely high. This was not guilt by association,” Cooper told Khatallah, according to The Washington Post. “This case stands as an exemplar for the principle that a defendant accused of international terrorism can get a fair trial in the U.S. criminal justice system.”

Khatallah’s sentence marks an end to a four-year legal battle since he was captured in Libya on June 14, 2014, and taken to the United States to stand trial.

Prosecutors accused Khatallah of directing a group that stormed the U.S. Embassy.

“A group of men, armed with AK-47 rifles, grenades, and other weapons, swept into the Mission compound, setting fires and breaking into buildings,” prosecutors said.

Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and U.S. government personnel Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty died in the attack.