DOJ drops charges against alleged Libyan arms salesman

DOJ drops charges against alleged Libyan arms salesman
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The Justice Department has dropped charges against an American accused of trying to sell weapons to Libyan rebels following a protracted dispute about government documents that could have threatened to embarrass the Obama administration.

By asking a federal court in Arizona to toss out the case against defense contractor Marc Turi, the Justice Department avoided a potentially lengthy trial that could have shed unwanted light on the Obama administration’s actions during the overthrow of strongman Moammar Gadhafi.

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In particular, the case could have exposed internal administration deliberations over whether to covertly provide arms to the Libyan rebels.

The revolution in Libya, which has turned the North African country into a chaotic and fractured collection of tribal and militia leaders, remains one of the resounding dark spots on President Obama’s time in office and the administration’s failures to effectively capitalize on a wave of pro-democracy movements known as the “Arab Spring.”

The Libyan violence poses especial political significance for former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonJudiciary Committee Republicans want a second special counsel: report Fusion GPS: White House trying to smear us on Russia OPINION | Gen. Hayden: How the Russians played the Trumps MORE, now the Democratic nominee for president. Under Clinton’s tenure, an assault on a pair of U.S. facilities in the city of Libya left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

Ardent critics of the Obama administration have alleged that the government was running a secret gun-running effort through Benghazi to Syria, though multiple congressional investigations have debunked that theory.

In 2014, Turi was indicted under felony weapons trafficking laws for allegedly trying to transfer weapons into the hands of rebels fighting Gaddafi. Turi’s lawyers have claimed that the sales were part of a secret U.S. effort allowing weapons to flow to the militants.

It appears unlikely that the weapons ever actually made it into the rebels’ hands.

For two years, lawyers for the government and Turi’s defense have sparred over what evidence the government should hand over in the case.

After protests from Turi’s lawyers, the court declared that the Obama administration only had to hand over material related to whether or not the U.S. armed Libyan rebels, not about “possible” or “contemplated” efforts to provide them with weapons.

This March, the court reversed itself, and expanded the scope of material that would need to be handed over. Under the terms of the judge’s order, documents would have been handed over on Wednesday.

But on Monday, the two sides reached a deal to toss the case out. On Tuesday, the judge closed the case.

The terms of the agreement remain secret. 

Details of the case were previously reported by Politico.