The legal case against the accused leader of the 2012 attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, began with him being spirited into Washington in darkness for a hearing hastily arranged on a Saturday afternoon. Ahmed Abu Khatallah was flown by helicopter just before dawn from a Navy ship, according to a law enforcement official who requested anonymity to discuss the details. Amid heavy security, he was taken to a federal courthouse blocks from the U.S. Capitol, the official said. As armed U.S. marshals patrolled outside, the unshackled Khatallah stood impassively as his court-appointed lawyer, Michelle Peterson, entered a not-guilty plea. He wore black sweatpants, a hooded sweatshirt and sandals, addressing the court through a translator when asked by U.S. Magistrate Judge John Facciola to give his name and say whether he understood the proceedings. It was over in less than 15 minutes. It was the start of a case that will serve as a test of President Barack Obama’s commitment to the civilian prosecution of terrorism suspects. Throughout Obama’s tenure, Republicans have criticized the Democratic leader for relying on civilian courts for such cases, rather than military tribunals. “Now that Ahmed Abu Khatallah has arrived in the United States,…
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