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Ahmed Abu Khatallah, Benghazi suspect, 'hates Americans with a vengeance,' prosecutors say

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Trial of Libyan charged with killing US ambassador to begin

"Benghazi" was a rallying cry for Republican critics of Hillary Clinton, who blamed the former secretary of state for the 2012 attack on the USA diplomatic compound in the Libyan city that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

The attack shocked Americans but turned into a bitter political fight in which Republicans sought in a multi-year investigation to pin the blame for the popular diplomat's death on then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ahead of her planned run for the presidency.

The evidence will show Abu Khatallah - the only Benghazi suspect now in U.S. custody - is not guilty and that he "was just someone who could be blamed", said defense attorney Jeffrey Robinson.

The prosecutors also said they have a lineup of witnesses that will testify against Khatallah and explain how he prepared for the attack.

On the night of the attack, he said, he was relaxing outside, feeling relieved that nothing bad had happened on September 11, when he heard chanting outside the compound. Both Stevens and Smith died in the Benghazi attack, as well as contract security officers Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.

Stevens was the first US ambassador killed in an attack since 1979 when Adolph Dubs, US ambassador to Afghanistan, died from gunfire after Islamic extremists attempted to kidnap him, according to the US State Department.

Khattala, about 46, was the commander of an Islamist militia in Benghazi, Ansar al-Sharia, which undertook the deadly raid on the U.S. compound in the eastern port city.

The gray-haired Khatallah, 46, with a chest-length beard and a white dress shirt, sat quietly at the defense table.

The attack killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

Crabb continued: Khatallah did not light the fire at the mission, nor did he fire the mortars at the annex.

But Khatallah's defense lawyer argued that Khatallah was more of a fall guy than a mastermind, saying that he arrived at the USA compound after the battle was over. When Khatallah arrived, a building was already on fire, Robinson said. He did not set any fires. Khattalah's role in the civil war left him with enemies who would be happy to see him take the blame for the attacks on the U.S. compound, Robinson said.

Trial of Libyan charged with killing US ambassador to begin
Ahmed Abu Khatallah, Benghazi Attack Suspect, Goes on Trial

The defense, meanwhile, repeatedly stressed that Ali had been paid $7 million dollars by the US government to befriend Khatallah and feed information to USA officials.

Believed to be in his 40s, Abu Khatallah became the face of the militant attack and a top target for the United States after he cultivated a celebrity profile in its wake, meeting with journalists and granting interviews.

The trial began in a federal courtroom in Washington, three years after he was captured by United States special forces in Libya and brought to the U.S. on a 13-day trip aboard a Navy ship.

Because that information is classified, the details about some of the other individuals involved in the attack and how the government learned of them will likely not be shared during the course of the trial.

Khatallah commanded a small militia during the 2011 uprising against Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi. The September 11, 2012, attack in question led to the deaths of US Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, State Department official Sean Smith and two former US Navy SEALs working as security officers at a Central Intelligence Agency compound near the US embassy in Benghazi: Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty. "And that defendant, right there, hates Americans with a vengeance", Crabb said while pointing to Khattala.

The ship took almost two weeks to arrive in Virginia after developing engine trouble at sea, according to pretrial testimony.

U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper denied those requests, saying Khatallah was well treated aboard the ship and that the two-step process did not abuse his rights.

The judge rejected that, and is allowing the statements to be used as evidence.

Court adjourned for the day as Wickland was still on the stand and the prosecution is expected to resume his testimony on Tuesday.

Monday's trial represents a high-profile test in the use of a federal court to try a foreign terrorism suspect, as opposed to holding him at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba where he would face military legal proceedings.

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