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Federal court denies dismissal of criminal charges in Benghazi attack
Federal court denies dismissal of criminal charges in Benghazi attack

[JURIST] The US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] denied [opinion, PDF] on Wednesday a motion to dismiss the criminal charges against Ahmed Salim Faraj Abu Khatallah arising from the 2012 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Abu Khatallah was indicted on 18 counts and challenged the statutes he is charged with violating on grounds of extraterritoriality, unconstitutional vagueness and overbroadness and that two facilities destroyed do not meet the statutory definition of “US property” or “federal facility.” Judge Christopher R. Cooper [official profile] struck down challenges to all but two counts, and requested supplemental briefing before ruling on those remaining charges. According to the court, when a federal crime “directly harms the US government” and when it may be inferred from foreseeable foreign applications of a given statute at the time of its enactment that Congress “contemplated and authorized prosecutions for extraterritorial acts,” then extraterritorial prosecution may be utilized, as is the case here. Abu Khatallah is currently awaiting trial [AP report] on charges of providing material support to terrorists and murder of an internationally protected person.

The 2012 attack [BBC backgrounder] in Benghazi that left US Ambassador Christopher Stevens [WP obituary] and three other Americans dead was one of the more significant attacks involving the US in recent years. In October 2014 Libyan militant Abu Khatallah pled not guilty [JURIST report] to 17 charges related to the attack, including some charges that warrant the death penalty. In June 2014 Khatallah made his first appearance [JURIST report] in the US District Court for the District of Columbia where he pleaded not guilty to a federal terrorism offense. Khatallah was indicted by a federal grand jury on the charge of “conspiracy to provide material support and resources to terrorists, knowing and intending that these would be used in preparation for and in carrying out a killing in the course of an attack on a federal facility, and the offense resulted in death.” Khatallah was also captured [JURIST report] in June 2014 by US military forces who conducted a secret operation in Libya to do so.