Written by Seyi Gesinde with Agency Report
Trial started on Tuesday in the case of Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, a Nigerian arrested and arraigned in the United States for attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner in December, 2009.
Abdulmutallab, linked with the al Qaeda terrorist group was picked up by security agents aboard a Northwest Airlines Airbus A330 with Delta Air Lines on Christmas Day in 2009.
The case had suffered a lot of legal setbacks as AbdulMutallab said he was prepared to represent himself at trial and had indicated his intention to address the jury directly.
However, Jury selection began on Tuesday in the case, just days after a suspected collaborator in the plot was killed in a US drone strike in Yemen.
The start of the federal trial in Detroit is expected to last several weeks.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the trial would be closely watched because the defendant, 24-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who had no formal legal training, has decided to act as his own attorney in defending against charges that could lead to a life sentence.
Last week, US District Judge, Nancy Edmunds granted a request by prosecutors to introduce a videotaped demonstration of an explosive device that authorities said is similar to the bomb allegedly detonated by Abdulmutallab aboard a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.
Prosecutors wrote that the video would show it would be “more probable that the defendant’s bomb endangered the safety of the aircraft, that the bomb was intended to kill other individuals, or was intended to wreck or destroy the aircraft.”
The judge is also allowing prosecutors to submit into evidence statements made by Abdulmutallab as he was being treated in Detroit for injuries sustained in the explosion.
Authorities said Abdulmutallab admitted he exploded the device in the service of al Qaeda.
The judge declined the government’s request to show a video in which Osama Bin Laden refered to the defendant as a hero.
Prosecutors accused Abdulmutallab of detonating an explosive device hidden in his underwear as the flight approached Detroit.
He faces six counts, including the attempted murder of the 278 other passengers and 11 crew members.
Witnesses said Abdulmutallab set off the device on his lap, sparking a brief fire before it was extinguished and he was restrained by passengers and crew members.
No other passengers were seriously injured, and the plane wasn’t seriously damaged.
Although the plot was unsuccessful, the Christmas Day episode “realised some of our worst fears,” said Bruce Hoffman, professor of security studies at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., because Abdulmutallab was a cosmopolitan traveler from outside the Arab world whose documents did not raise suspicions.
The attack prompted heightened security measures at airports around the world, including full-body scans of US-bound passengers.
US officials have linked the bombing plot to al Qaeda leader, Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in a CIA drone strike in Yemen last week.
Prosecutors declined to be interviewed on the case before trial, a spokeswoman said Friday. Abdulmutallab’s standby attorney couldn’t be reached for comment late last week.
A year ago, Abdulmutallab appeared in court and fired his attorneys, saying he wished to represent himself and indicating that he might plead guilty.
Since then, aided by the standby lawyer, he has challenged the US legal process, penned a handwritten letter to the judge to protest witnesses for the prosecution, shouted out during hearings and refused to obey the judge’s orders at times.
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