U.S. Libya embassy bombing suspect pleads not guilty

World Today

Ahmed Abu Khattalah, 43, pleaded not guilty to conspiracy Saturday morning in a United States District Court in Washington, D.C. CCTV’s Jessica Stone reports.

U.S. Libya embassy bombing suspect pleads not guilty

CCTV's Jessica has the details on the court appearance of Ahmed Abu Khattala.

Abu Khattalah is charged with killing an American on U.S. soil, providing material support to terrorists resulting in death, and the use of a firearm and a dangerous weapon. Such crimes are punishable by up to life prison, and can be punishable by death. The U.S. government has also said it soon would file more charges against him.

The charges stem from the Sept. 11, 2012 attack of a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. Four Americans were killed, including U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens.

Abu Khattalah denied any involvement in the attacks though he admitted to being present, and he now has a court-appointed attorney.

Abu Khattalah was brought into Washington early Saturday morning. A U.S. official tells the Associated Press he was flown by military helicopter from a Navy ship where he had been held since his capture. Security has been tightened around the courthouse in Washington.

He was charged in a criminal complaint last summer which was unsealed just two weeks ago, right after he was captured by a Special Forces team in a nighttime raid in Libya. For the past two weeks, Abu Khattalah has been interrogated by U.S. officials for information about Ansar al-Shariah, the terror group he is alleged to be part of.

The defendant wore a black track suit and sandals at the 10-minute hearing. He spoke just two words, both in Arabic, during the hearing. U.S. Magistrate Judge John Facciola ordered Abu Khattalah’s continued detention, but did not specify where he would be held. The U.S. Department of Justice unsealed a grand jury indictment against him just after the plea.

The trial is one of few in which a suspected terrorist captured overseas is interrogated for intelligence purposes before being brought to federal court, marking a change in the way the U.S. prosecutes those accused of terrorism against American citizens.

The trial is also controversial because at the time of the attack, then U.S. Secretary of State and current presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton did not order extra security at the compound despite it being the eleventh anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

In the years since the 2001 attacks, hundreds of terror suspects were taken to the detention camps in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and tried in the military justice system.

Republicans quickly criticized the move, saying valuable intelligence could be lost. Sen. Kelly Ayotte issued a statement saying “critical intelligence” could be lost in the process of turning Abu Khattalah over to the U.S. criminal justice system.

The Obama administration has made a point to try them in the domestic court system which the White House says is more fair and efficient.

More on the latest from the trial:

More on Benghazi suspect from Jessica Stone

CCTV's Jessica Stone has the latest on the trial of Ahmed Abu Khatallah and the controversy that goes along with it.