Prosecutors and defense lawyers gave starkly different portrayals of Ahmed Abu Khattala, the alleged mastermind of the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, the Associated Press reports. Prosecutor John Crabb said that when Abu Khattala’s hatred of America boiled over, he orchestrated the attacks and then triumphantly strode around the attack site carrying an AK-47. John Crabb said the defendant was heard saying “I attacked the American embassy” and would have killed more Americans that night if others had not intervened. A defense attorney called Abu Khattala a “Libyan patriot” who fought on the U.S. side in the war against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. He said Abu Khattala didn’t mastermind the attack and went to the attack site because he heard there was a protest and wanted to see what was happening.
Opening statements unfolded Monday in one of the most significant terrorism prosecutions in recent years, in U.S. District Court in Washington, D..C. An 18-count indictment against Abu Khattala arises from a burst of violence that began the night of Sept. 11, 2012, at a State Department compound, a rampage prosecutors say was aimed at killing American personnel and plundering maps, documents and other property from the post. The trial, which is expected to last several weeks, is likely to resurrect the political controversy over the attack. Republicans accused the Obama administration of intentionally misleading the public about what transpired at the U.S. outposts and stonewalling congressional investigators. Some lawmakers criticized then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s handling of the episode.