Ahmed Abu Khatallah, Defendant in Benghazi Case, Says Prosecutors Overreached

Lawyers for the only person to be charged with the attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi asked a federal judge Friday to throw out some of the charges against him.

Ahmed Abu Khatallah faces charges of murder and providing support to terrorists, as well as other counts, such as using a firearm in committing a violent crime. Prosecutors say he played in a role in the 2012 attack that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.

Image: Ahmed Abu Khatallah
Ahmed Abu Khatallah, the only person to be charged in connection with the 2012 attacks on US diplomatic facilities in Behghazi, Libya, appeared briefly today in a US courtroom in Washington, DC. Art Lien

His lawyers said Friday that the government has larded up the case against him by impermissibly adding extra counts, calling the indictment "a case of government overreach."

They claim Khatallah is charged with offenses that were not intended to apply outside the U.S. or to temporary diplomatic facilities like the ones targeted in Benghazi. The also said that while he is accused of providing material support to terrorists, that statute is unconstitutionally vague, at least as applied in this case, because the government has never defined terrorism.

Federal Judge Christopher Cooper did not rule in court Friday and said he will file a written ruling soon.

No trial date has been set, and prosecutors say they do not expect a decision until next spring on whether to seek the death penalty.

Khatallah was snatched from a seaside villa by U.S. special forces and FBI agents. They sped away with him in a boat and took him to a waiting U.S Navy ship in the Mediterranean. He has pleaded not guilty.