WASHINGTON — A suspected ringleader of the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that killed a US ambassador and three other Americans was ordered held without bond during a Wednesday hearing in District of Columbia federal court.
Ahmed Abu Khattala, who has pleaded not guilty to a single conspiracy charge, was seized in a secret raid in Libya in June. He was held aboard a Navy warship before he was brought to Washington for trial.
Assistant US Attorney Michael DiLorenzo said in court Wednesday that multiple witnesses know of Abu Khattala’s involvement in the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. DiLorenzo said the defendant’s statements corroborate that evidence.
In January, the State Department designated Abu Khattala a terrorist, calling him a ‘‘senior leader’’ of the Benghazi branch of the militant organization Ansar al-Sharia, a group that arose after the 2011 fall of the Libyan regime of Moammar Khadafy.
‘‘He is the commander of an armed militia . . . designated as a terrorist organization,’’ DiLorenzo said in court. He said Abu Khattala was carrying a loaded weapon when he was seized and ‘‘took steps to avoid capture.’’
In court papers filed Tuesday, federal prosecutors said Abu Khattala organized the attacks at a US diplomatic mission and a nearby CIA annex out of a sense of ideological fervor. In the days before the attacks, he ‘‘voiced concern and opposition to the presence of an American facility in Benghazi,’’ prosecutors wrote.
Abu Khattala’s public defender, Michelle Peterson, did not contest the motion to hold her client without bond, given his status as a foreign national and the terrorism-related charge against him. She also protested that prosecutors have offered her almost no information about their case.
“There’s an utter lack of evidence of Mr. Khattala’s involvement in what happened in Benghazi,’’ she said. “It’s incredibly difficult for us to defend Mr. Khattala against the charges against him.”