Benghazi terrorist sent to 22 years in prison

Ahmed Abu Khattala, believed to be the mastermind behind 2012 attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, sentenced to 22 years in prison.

Elad Benari,

US embassy in Benghazi on fire during attack
US embassy in Benghazi on fire during attack

A Libyan terrorist who prosecutors portrayed as the mastermind behind the deadly 2012 attacks on U.S. government facilities in Benghazi was sentenced by a federal judge to 22 years in prison on Wednesday, The Hill reported.

Ahmed Abu Khattala, 47, was convicted by a jury in November of four counts related to the attack on a CIA compound that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. Charges included conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.

U.S. District Judge Christopher R. “Casey” Cooper rejected prosecutors' demand for a life sentence, ruling closer to the defense's request for a 15-year sentence.

“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 extreme high. This was not guilt by association,” Cooper was quoted as having told Abu Khattala.

“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,” he added.

Abu Khattala, a leader of the terrorist organization Ansar al-Sharia, was captured by American forces in Libya in June of 2014, and has previously denied any connection to the Benghazi attack.

He was the first person charged in the 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic compound and a CIA station in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

Abu Khattala pleaded not guilty to charges including murder of an internationally protected person, providing material support to terrorists and destroying U.S. property while causing death.

Federal prosecutors hoped in court filings for a sentence that would deter future attacks on U.S. ambassadors, as Ambassador Stevens was the first U.S. diplomat to be killed on duty in decades.

Defense attorneys sought to cast doubt during Abu Khattala's trial over how large a role he played in the 2012 attack.