The Obama administration announced Tuesday that it won’t seek the death penalty for the man accused of leading the 2012 attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans.
Justice Department prosecutors declined to explain the decision in a short filing with the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia.
“The United States of America, by and through its attorney, the United States attorney for the District of Columbia, hereby gives notice that the government will not seek imposition of the death penalty if the defendant is convicted of any capital crime charged in this case,” lawyers wrote.
The stance differs from the government’s position in last year’s trial of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the last major terrorism case in the U.S. Tsarnaev was sentenced to death last May.
According to federal prosecutors, he was the leader of an Islamic extremist militia that descended on a diplomatic compound and nearby CIA annex in Benghazi on the 11th anniversary of 9/11. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and four other Americans were killed in the attack, which has since become the focus of intense scrutiny in Washington.
A Hollywood movie dramatizing the events, “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi,” was released earlier this year.
In a statement, Justice Department spokesperson Emily Pierce said the department “is committed to ensuring that the defendant is held accountable for his alleged role in the terrorist attack on the U.S. Special Mission and annex in Benghazi that killed four Americans and seriously injured two others, and if convicted, he faces a sentence of up to life in prison."
Abu Khattala’s lawyers had previously tried to get him taken out of the U.S. after he was interrogated on a Navy vessel for six days without being read his Miranda rights. Judge Christopher Cooper denied that request this year.
Dates for Abu Khattala’s trial have not been set.