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Militant convicted in fatal Benghazi attack seeks new trial

Buildings were set on fire at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in an attack in 2012.
Buildings were set on fire at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in the 2012 attack that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.
(Mustafa El-Shridi / EPA)

Lawyers for a Libyan militant convicted in the Benghazi attack that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans have asked for a new trial, citing what they say is “recently disclosed exculpatory evidence.”

Ahmed Abu Khattala is serving a 22-year prison sentence after being convicted three years ago of terrorism-related charges in connection with the 2012 attack on diplomatic compounds in Benghazi, Libya.

The motion filed Monday in Washington’s federal court does not detail the newly disclosed evidence but says it concerns a key government witness who testified under a pseudonym at Khattala’s trial. The motion also says additional information that emerged during the trial of an alleged co-conspirator has not been provided to the defense.

A federal defender for Khattala declined to comment beyond the motion. A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington did not immediately return an email seeking comment Tuesday.

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Khattala was captured in 2014 and was put on trial for the attack, which became a divisive political tinderbox during the tenure of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

A jury convicted Khattala of multiple terrorism-related charges but found him not guilty of murder. Prosecutors accused Khattala of heading an extremist militia and directing the attack but acknowledged that they lacked evidence of him firing any weapons.

The recently released House Intelligence Committee report on the Sept. 11, 2012, attack against an American diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, was the seventh such inquiry since 2012.

The motion for a new trial comes just before the three-year anniversary of the guilty verdict, which is the deadline for such a request under federal rules.

In the motion, defense lawyer Michelle Peterson said that “newly disclosed evidence relates to classified evidence that Counsel does not presently have access to due to the Covid pandemic.”

She asked the judge in the case to allow her to speak to the government’s lawyers “to ensure that all relevant information has been disclosed prior to fully briefing the motion.”


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