Wednesday 13 December 2017

'Underpants bomber' to denounce America as trial for attempted murder of 289 begins

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was a former student at University College London. Photo: PA
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was a former student at University College London. Photo: PA

Jon Swaine

The man who tried to detonate a bomb in his underpants on a packed flight to the US is expected to denounce America as the enemy of Islam while representing himself at his trial, which opens later today.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was hauled off a Northwestern Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, after explosives stitched into his clothes failed to explode and he was set on fire.

Abdulmutallab, 24, faces six charges including the attempted murder of the 289 people on board. He has sacked his lawyers and is preparing to address the jury, which is to be selected today in Detroit, himself.

The young Nigerian told a previous hearing that external lawyers would all have a "conflict of interest". He has indicated that he may "plead guilty to some counts", and faces life in prison if convicted.

In handwritten motions filed to court in August, Abdulmutallab said he was being "unjustly detained" and "subjected to the rule of man" when "all Muslims should only be ruled by the law of the Koran".

He referred to Mohammad as "the Messenger of Allah to Mankind, who is being defamed and abused by the United States of America". He then cried "jihad" and "Osama's alive" in a later hearing.

Judge Nancy Edmunds has ruled that statements made by Abdulmutallab, the son of one of Nigeria's richest men, while he received treatment for his injuries, may be presented during the trial.

Prosecutors allege he immediately confessed to carrying out the attempted attack for al-Qaeda. They are also being allowed to show a video demonstration of what damage the attack might have caused.

However, Judge Edmunds has ruled that a video in which Osama bin Laden, the late al-Qaeda leader, hailed Abdulmutallab as a hero, may not be used as evidence by government prosecutors.

The trial comes just days after the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki, the senior al-Qaeda cleric who US intelligence officials claimed may have mentored Abdulmutallab before his alleged attempted attack.

Abdulmutallab is said to have attended a sermon by Awlaki at the Finsbury Park Mosque in late 2006 or 2007, while studying engineering at University College London.

He later travelled for training in Yemen, where Awlaki was based until being killed last week in a missile strike by an unmanned US drone.

A "standby attorney", appointed to Abdulmutallab by the state in case he requires assistance, did not return a request for comment on Monday.

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