Underwear bomber to get life term
Published 17/02/2012 | 05:00
A Detroit federal judge is refusing to set aside a federal law which demands a mandatory life sentence for a Nigerian who pleaded guilty to trying to blow up an international flight to Detroit on Christmas 2009.
US District Judge Nancy Edmunds made her decision as the sentencing hearing began for Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to bring down Northwest Airlines Flight 253 with a bomb in his underwear.
Abdulmutallab's lawyer claims a life sentence when there was no death or serious injury to passengers is unconstitutional.
Separately, the judge said she would allow the government to show an FBI video demonstrating the power of the explosive chemical possessed by Abdulmutallab.
Abdulmutallab, the privileged son of a wealthy Nigerian banker, will return to the federal court in Detroit today to be sentenced, four months after pleading guilty and admitting it was a suicide mission for al-Qa'ida.
The hearing is an open platform for passengers and crew who want to speak, but only five of nearly 300 are expected to address the court.
Abdulmutallab (25) tried to detonate explosive chemicals that were hidden in his underwear minutes before the plane landed at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. The device failed to work as planned, but still produced flame, smoke and panic in the cabin.
On the second day of his trial in October, Abdulmutallab suddenly pleaded guilty to all charges. In a defiant speech, he said he was carrying a "blessed weapon" to avenge Muslims who have been killed or poorly treated around the world.
He admitted he was inspired by Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical American-born cleric and leading al Qa'ida figure in Yemen who was killed by a US drone strike last autumn.
Anthony Chambers, a lawyer appointed to assist Abdulmutallab, is urging District Judge Edmunds to declare that a mandatory life sentence is unconstitutional, claiming it is a cruel punishment in a case where no one but Abdulmutallab was physically hurt. His groin was badly burned.