Abu Khattala appeared in court wearing a green prison jumpsuit and with a long, graying beard. He listened to the proceedings through headphones as an interpreter translated the conversation into Arabic. Peterson requested that while in jail he be served a halal diet and be provided a copy of the Quran.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael DiLorenzo recited some of the basic allegations of the case, telling U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson that there were no conditions under which Abu Khattala could be released that would ensure the safety of the community.
Though the outcome of the detention hearing was never in doubt, it did afford Abu Khattala's lawyer an opportunity to publicly contest some of the government's allegations. Peterson questioned, for instance, the relevance of prosecutors' assertions that Abu Khattala had a loaded firearm at the time of his arrest and suggested it would not be unusual to be armed in a nation riven by strife and violence.
The court appearance was the second in the last week for Abu Khattala, who was captured June 15 by U.S. Special Forces, then transported to the United States aboard a Navy boat where federal agents interrogated him. He has pleaded not guilty to a single count of conspiring to provide support to terrorists, a crime punishable by up to life in prison. The Justice Department has said it expects to bring additional charges soon that could reveal more information about the case.
Prosecutors alleged in a court filing that he was motivated to participate in the attacks by an extremist ideology and that, in the days before the fiery assault, had spoken out against the presence of the U.S. compound in Benghazi.
The government says Abu Khattala was a commander of Abu Obaida bin Jarrah Brigade, an extremist group that was absorbed into Ansar al-Sharia after the recent Libyan revolution. The State Department has designated Ansar al-Sharia as a foreign terrorist organization.
On the night of the attacks, the government says, at least 20 militants armed with AK-47s and grenade launchers breached the gate of the consulate compound and set buildings on fire.
The fire led to the deaths of Stevens and Information Management Officer Sean Patrick Smith. Other State Department personnel escaped to a nearby U.S. facility known as the annex.
Khattala then returned to a camp in Benghazi controlled by Ansar al-Sharia, where a large armed group began assembling for an attack on the annex, according to the court papers. The attack on that facility, including a mortar barrage, resulted in the deaths of security Officers Tyrone Snowden Woods and Glen Anthony Doherty.
A status conference is set for next week.