Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Tuesday called on the Obama administration to try the recently captured Benghazi suspect in a military court, not a federal court.
Cruz made that demand just moments after the Obama administration announced it had captured Ahmed Abu Khatalla over the weekend.
“Khatalla is a foreign terrorist, captured by our special forces overseas for his violent attack on a U.S. facility,” Cruz said. “He belongs in Guantanamo and in the military justice system, not in the U.S. civilian court system with the constitutional protections afforded U.S. citizens.
“Our top priority should be preventing future attacks and bringing to justice the other terrorists who participated in the murder of four Americans in Benghazi.”
Cruz’s comments were backed up by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who said Khatalla “should be held at Guantanamo as a potential enemy combatant.”
Cruz’s comments immediately raise the prospect of another debate on how to try terrorist suspects in the United States. The Justice Department has filed a criminal complaint against Khatalla in the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia.
Justice charged him in 2013 with killing people during an attack on a federal facility, conspiring to provide aid to terrorists, and using a firearm in a crime of violence. President Barack Obama said Tuesday that Khatalla would “face the full weight of the American justice system.”
Attorney General Eric Holder added Tuesday that the Justice Department may seek additional charges against Khatalla.
Many Republicans like Cruz have said terror suspects need to be tried in military court. But they may have a harder time convincing the administration to hold a military trial for Khatalla.
Earlier this year, Attorney General Eric Holder praised the guilty verdict against a relative of Osama bin Laden that was reached in a federal court. Holder said that decision shows federal courts can be used to prosecute terrorists.
In 2010, the administration initially wanted to try 9/11 terrorists in New York, but ultimately gave up on that plan in the face of pressure from local officials and businesses.
Republicans broadly welcomed the news of Khatalla’s capture, although some questioned why it took so long to find him, given his several media interviews. The State Department dismissed those questions earlier Tuesday.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), who chairs the House Select Committee on Benghazi, praised word of his capture. “I applaud our military and law enforcement officials for apprehending this terrorist, and look forward to learning more information about this operation,” he said.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said he hoped the Obama administration would share whatever information Khatalla has with Gowdy’s committee.