With Guilty Plea, Underwear Bomber Cuts Short Intriguing Terror Trial

Article excerpt

The trial of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called underwear bomber, could have shed light on Anwar al-Awlaki and several potentially significant pretrial rulings. But he pleaded guilty.

A Nigerian man accused of concealing a bomb in his underwear to destroy a commercial jetliner on Christmas Day 2009 pleaded guilty to all eight counts in his indictment on Wednesday.

The surprise move came on what would have been the second day of his high-profile terrorism trial in federal court in Detroit.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was facing charges that he plotted with Al Qaeda to carry out a martyrdom mission by blowing up a US airliner with 292 people on board as it approached Detroit.

The bomb caught fire but did not explode.

Mr. Abdulmutallab, acting against the advice of his appointed stand-by counsel, decided to end the trial as it was just beginning. He read a statement in open court admitting responsibility for each of the charges filed against him, including conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism, attempting to destroy a civil aircraft, and attempted murder.

While acknowledging guilt under US law, he emphasized that his actions were undertaken as part of a perceived religious obligation in Islam to protect fellow Muslims from attack.

He warned that a "great calamity" would befall the United States if it didn't stop killing innocent Muslims and stop supporting those who kill innocent Muslims.

"If you laugh at us now, we will laugh at you later in this life and on the day of judgment," Abdulmutallab told the court. "Our final call is all praise to Allah, the lord of the universe. Allahu Akbar [God is great]."

US District Judge Nancy Edmunds set sentencing for Jan. 12. Abdulmutallab faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison.

Given the circumstances of his failed bombing attack and the fact that his alleged act of terrorism was witnessed by scores of fellow passengers on the plane, Abdulmutallab's chances of an acquittal on the main charges were virtually nonexistent.

In addition, he confessed significant details of the plot - including contacts with Al Qaeda allies in Yemen - to Federal Bureau of Investigation agents shortly after the attack.

Judge Edmunds ruled before the trial that the jury would be permitted to hear testimony about his admissions.

The guilty plea means that none of Judge Edmunds's pretrial rulings will be appealed and examined by a panel of judges.

In a significant pretrial decision, the judge found that FBI agents were "fully justified" in not giving Miranda warnings to Abdulmutallab during an initial 50-minute interrogation seeking actionable intelligence about whether other underwear bombers might be on their way to the US.

US Attorney General Eric Holder said the guilty plea was more evidence of his often-repeated assertion that the federal courts are well-suited to prosecute terrorism suspects. …