Federal prosecutors said Tuesday they will not seek the death penalty against the only man to be charged in a U.S. court with the deadly attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.
Ahmed Abu Khatallah faces charges of murder and providing support to terrorists. Prosecutors say he played a lead role in the 2012 attacks that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.
The charges included counts punishable by death, but the Justice Department told the judge, in a one-sentence notification, that "the government will not seek imposition of the death penalty if the defendant is convicted of any capital crime charged in this case."
A Justice Department official said Attorney General Loretta Lynch made the decision "after reviewing the case information and consulting with" prosecutors on the case.
"The Department is committed to ensuring that the defendant is held accountable for his alleged role in the terrorist attack on the U.S. Special Mission and annex in Benghazi," the statement said, "If convicted, he faces a sentence of up to life in prison."
Khatallah was snatched from a Libyan seaside villa in 2014 by US special forces and FBI agents. They sped in a boat and took him to a waiting US Navy ship in the Mediterranean. He has pleaded not guilty.
His lawyers claim he was illegally questioned by both military and civilian interrogators. The judge has so far rejected their efforts to trim back the charges as well as their request that he be sent back to Libya on the grounds that he was illegally arrested.
No trial date has yet been set.