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Second Benghazi Suspect Appears in Court

by Pete Williams /  / Updated 
Image: Al-Iman, Benghazi suspect and interpreter in Washington DC on Nov. 3, 2017.
Al-Iman, Benghazi suspect and interpreter in Washington DC on Nov. 3, 2017.Art Lien / for NBC News

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WASHINGTON — The second man to be charged in the U.S. with helping to carry out the deadly 2012 attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, was brought before a federal judge on Friday in Washington.

Mustafa al-Imam appeared in the same courthouse where another Libyan, Ahmed Abu Khattala, is on trial for helping to lead the attack that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.

Like Khattala, al-Imam was seized in a daring raid in Libya by a team of U.S. special forces and members of the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team, then taken to a U.S. Navy ship, where he was interrogated first by a team of intelligence officers and then by a separate group of FBI agents. The capture took place on Oct. 29 near the Libyan coastal city of Misurata.

Al-Imam, who is said to be in his mid-40s, is charged with killing a person while attacking a federal facility and providing material support to a terror group. He appeared in court, without handcuffs, in an orange government-issued jumpsuit.

Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson ordered him held pending a hearing set for Nov. 9, but it is unlikely he would be allowed out on bail while waiting for his trial.

Image: Al-Iman, Benghazi suspect and interpreter in Washington DC on Nov. 3, 2017.
Al-Iman, Benghazi suspect and interpreter in Washington DC on Nov. 3, 2017.Art Lien / for NBC News

The charges could carry the death penalty upon conviction, but prosecutors will not say until later whether they will seek it. The Justice Department is not seeking the death penalty in Khattala's trial.

Although President Donald Trump has repeatedly said he favors sending terrorism suspects to the U.S. Navy facility in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the decision to put al-Imam on trial in a civilian U.S. court is consistent with the practice of the Obama administration.

Khatallah's trial, which began in late September, is expected to last until Thanksgiving.

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