underwear bomber

Update 3:45 p.m.

DETROIT (AP) - A Nigerian who tried to blow up an international flight near Detroit on behalf of al-Qaida has been sentenced to life in prison without parole.

The mandatory punishment Thursday for Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was never in doubt after he pleaded guilty in October. The 25-year-old says the bomb in his underwear was a "blessed weapon" to avenge poorly treated Muslims worldwide.

The bomb didn't fully detonate aboard an Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight but caused a brief fire that burned Abdulmutallab.

He admitted afterward that the attack was inspired by Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical American-born cleric and leading al-Qaida figure killed by a U.S. drone strike last fall.

Federal Judge Nancy Edmunds announced the sentence in a crowded courtroom that included some passengers from Northwest Airlines Flight 253.

2:22 p.m.

DETROIT (AP) - A Detroit federal judge is refusing to set aside a federal law that requires a mandatory life sentence for a Nigerian who pleaded guilty to trying to blow up an international flight bound for Detroit on Christmas 2009.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds made her decision as the sentencing hearing began Thursday for Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. He tried to bring down Northwest Airlines Flight 253 with a bomb in his underwear. It failed and he was badly burned.

Abdulmutallab's attorney claims a life sentence when there was no death or serious injury to passengers is unconstitutional.

Separately, the judge says she'll allow the government to show an FBI video demonstrating the power of the explosive chemical possessed by Abdulmutallab.

The young Nigerian man convicted of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound flight two years ago will not be appointed new legal counsel ahead of his sentencing next month.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab says the “stand-by” attorney who’s been assisting him throughout his prosecution has misled and neglected him.

Lawyer Anthony Chambers has denied those charges. And prosecutors argued Abdulmutallab – who’s insisted on acting as his own attorney – has no legal right to standby counsel, let alone one of his choosing. The government also said granting Abdulmutallab’s request would delay justice for the passengers of Northwest Airlines Flight 253. Judge Nancy Edmunds denied the request.

Abdulmutallab pleaded guilty to all the charges against him in October. He’s scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 16.

U.S. Marshals

Attorneys for the federal government today laid out the road map they’ll use to prosecute the young Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound airplane two years ago.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel told jurors Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s sole reason for being on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day 2009 was to blow it up. Tukel said Abdulmutallab “thought he would end up in heaven because he would be a martyr.”

U.S. Marshals

Update 5:15 pm:

Judge Nancy Edmunds has recessed today's proceedings. The count so far: 20 jurors made it into the pool of potential jurors and will proceed to the final round of jury selection - 16 women, and four men. Seven were excused - three of them for bias. Two were excused for job-related reasons, one for mental health. The final juror who was excused has a wife with medical needs and expressed some frustration with his previous experiences with the courts.

The 13 jurors who were not questioned today will be questioned tomorrow, and 27 more jurors will also be called. Judge Edmunds is looking to have about three dozen prospective jurors in the pool for the second, final phase of jury selection - tentatively set for Thursday afternoon.

1:12 pm:

The first phase of jury selection is under way for the man accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas 2009.

So far five of the 17 jurors questioned have been excused.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab shouted, "Sheik Anwar is alive!" upon entering the courtroom. He also said "I will defend Muhammad," and likened the U.S. to a "cancer."

Judge Nancy Edmunds urged Abdulmutallab to change out of his prison clothes to make a better impression on potential jurors. After a brief back-and-forth, the defendant was escorted downstairs and returned wearing a dark blazer over a tan robe with white gym socks and wing tips.

Three of the jurors who were excused said they would have trouble putting aside their belief that Abdulmutallab is guilty.

"I shouldn't be this way, but this one just bothers me," said one. "I just have this guilty verdict in me."

A federal judge in Detroit says she will allow prosecutors to use statements at trial made by the so-called “underwear bomber.”

At issue were statements Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab made at U of M Hospital after he was removed from Northwest Flight 253 on Christmas Day 2009.

Abdulmutallab’s stand-by attorney argued the statements should be thrown out. He said they were made after Abdulmutallab was given a powerful narcotic. And he said Abdulmutallab was never read his Miranda rights.

Click here to see a copy of the juror questionnaire

Update 3:37 pm:

The man known as the “underwear bomber” will get a look at about 300 potential jurors in federal court in Detroit tomorrow.

The jurors will hear about the case against Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab from Judge Nancy Edmunds, then fill out questionnaires. The idea is to speed the jury selection process set to start next month by finding out whether any jurors have obvious biases.

It’s also the day when Judge Edmunds will hear arguments on some unresolved pre-trial issues. Those include Abdulmutallab’s request to change the trial’s venue.

A U.S. District Court judge says the Nigerian-born man accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner nearly two years ago can represent himself at trial.

So-called “underwear bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab has been acting as his own lawyer in pre-trial hearings. But he also has court-appointed standby counsel.

More details are being learned about why Detroit was chosen as a target in an attempt by an al-Qaida operative to blow up an airliner on Christmas Day 2009. It appears Detroit was picked because, quite simply, it was a cheap destination. The Associated Press reports:

The Associated Press has learned that when an admitted al-Qaida operative planned his itinerary for a Christmas 2009 airline bombing, he considered launching the strike in the skies above Houston or Chicago.

But tickets were too expensive, so he refocused the mission on a cheaper destination: Detroit.

The decision shows that al-Qaida's Yemen branch does not share Osama bin Laden's desire to attack symbolic targets.

After the failed bombing and the arrest of suspected bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab the question of why Detroit was targeted had gone unanswered.

Current and former counterterrorism officials told the AP that Abdulmutallab considered Houston. Another person with knowledge of the case said Abdulmutallab also considered Chicago.

All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case.

(from Hutaree militia facebook page)

They come from very different backgrounds and different parts of the world.   Members of the Hutaree militia and the suspected Christmas day underwear bomber are set to go on trial.   The Associated Press reports each will be in federal court this fall in Detroit. 

U.S. Marshals Service

The young Nigerian man accused of trying to bomb a Detroit-bound airliner last Christmas was arraigned on new charges in federal court today.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab entered the courtroom in prison khakis, canvas shoes and red handcuffs.He  stood mute to the new charges, which include conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism. The original indictment, filed almost a year ago, never used the word “terrorism.”

Federal prosecutors filed new charges against Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner last Christmas.

Abdulmutallab was previously charged with attempted murder and attempting to use a weapon on mass destruction.

The Detroit Free Press reports:

The new charge of conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, says he acted in concert with others whose names are known and unknown to the federal grand jury.

The charges say he traveled to Yemen to received training in making and detonating the bomb.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab
US Marshals Office/EPA

The man accused of trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight last Christmas says he’s sticking to his decision to represent himself in court.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab fired his court-appointed lawyer last month, and told Judge Nancy Edmunds he intends to defend himself in court against charges that he tried to set off explosives hidden in his underwear on a Detroit-bound airliner.

Abdulmutallab now has what’s called a stand-by attorney, who can help advise him through the court proceedings.