Washington, DC, United States (4E) – Ahmed Abu Khattala, the alleged ringleader of the deadly attack of the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya in 2012, pleaded not guilty to the charge of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists at a court in Washington, D.C. on Saturday.
Abu Khatalla made his plea before Magistrate John Facciola at a federal courthouse in downtown Washington, a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol and near the White House, before 4 p.m. The court provided the Libyan suspect with an Arabic interpreter and his lawyer, public defender Shelli Peterson, Peterson entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.
Facciola told Abu Khatalla about the charges against him and advised him not to speak without his lawyer. The judge told him the punishment for the charge is life in prison or death penalty. He then ordered the suspect’s detention to conclude the 10-minute hearing, Abu Khatalla was taken to the detention center in Alexandria, Virginia, which is across the Potomac River from the capital. His next hearing is on Wednesday.
Security at the courthouse was tight with heavily armed police ordering motorists and pedestrians to keep their distance.
Abu Khattala arrived in the U.S. on Saturday aboard the USS New York, two weeks after U.S. Special Forces and FBI agents seized him from his coastal villa in a secret raid on June 15. From the ship, he was flown by helicopter to the Washington Navy Yard and then driven by convoy to the courthouse.