- The Washington Times - Monday, October 16, 2017

FBI agents who assisted in the capture and detention of 2012 Benghazi attack suspect Ahmed Abu Khattala testified Monday about the arrest and treatment in custody, as prosecutors attempted to dispel any notion of abuse or coercion into making statements.

The government plans to use statements Mr. Abu Khattala made to FBI agents in questioning during a 13-day journey aboard the Navy ship that ferried him from Libya to the U.S. after his June 2014 capture.

FBI Special Agent Chris Johnson on Monday said a team of eight military and FBI officials waited inside a seaside villa for Mr. Abu Khattala’s arrival, surprising and handcuffing him after a brief struggle.

Mr. Abu Khattala was trying to punch, kick and bite members of the capture team, the agent said.

“I saw the struggle ensuing and I jumped on Mr. Abu Khatalla’s legs and held him to the ground,” Mr. Johnson said.

A handgun was taken from a holster on Mr. Abu Khattala’s hip.

The jury was shown photos of Mr. Abu Khattala with a bruised eye and blood from some of the cuts he sustained on his head during the struggle.

Mr. Johnson said he briefly questioned Mr. Abu Khattala in the apartment bathroom, and described how “an ease came over him” after the agent informed him that he was being taken into custody by U.S. officials and transported to the U.S.

Defense attorneys had challenged the admission of statements Mr. Abu Khattala made to FBI agents while aboard the Navy ship, questioning whether his right against self-incrimination was violated when he was interrogated by CIA and FBI officials.

U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper earlier rejected those claims, finding that Mr. Abu Khattala was “treated respectfully and humanely” while in custody.

Mr. Abu Khattala stands accused of masterminding the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi. Four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, were killed in the attack.

Aboard the Navy ship, Mr. Abu Khattala was moved between a series of five small pods where he was questioned, allowed to sleep and pray.

FBI Special Agent Robert Story said that while on the Navy ship, Mr. Abu Khattala was fed 2,500-calorie halal meals, the temperature inside the pods was kept at a constant 72 degrees and a copy of the Geneva Conventions was posted on the wall of his cell in Arabic and in English.

He was instructed not to talk to anyone other than the people questioning him, except to make the verbal requests for either “water” or “bathroom.”

“He was told he would not be abused as well?” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael DiLorenzo.

“Yes,” Mr. Story said.

Mr. Abu Khattala has pleaded not guilty to the 18 criminal counts, which range from murder of an officer of the United States to conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

A panel of 12 jurors and three alternates — six men and nine women — is hearing the case.



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