14 January 2014

Nigeria: U.S. Court Rejects Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's Appeal of Life Sentence

Photo: ThisDay
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

The life sentence of the "underwear bomber" was upheld on Monday by a federal appeals court.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is shown in this booking photograph on Dec. 28, 2009. Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian man who tried to set off an explosive hidden in his underwear while aboard a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day in 2009, had his life sentence upheld by a federal appeals court.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab -- a Nigerian who tried to set off a bomb hidden under his pants aboard a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009 -- had filed an appeal calling for a review of the sentence.

Abdulmatallab, who had called the bombing attempt his "religious duty" to avenge American attacks against Muslims, pleaded guilty to eight counts in October 2011, a day after his trial began.

But he later argued life in prison was cruel and unusual punishment, that the trial judge had erred in allowing him to represent himself despite doubts about his competence, and that statements he made in the hospital were admitted as evidence without a warning he could have an attorney present.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected all of the 27-year-old's challenges to the sentence, concluding "none of these claims have merit."

The court said Abdulmutallab had been represented by a public defender but then in a pretrial hearing insisted he wanted to represent himself. A judge warned him of the consequences and even appointed him a standby attorney who consulted with the defendant.

Circuit Judge David McKeague, who wrote the opinion for the three-judge appeals court panel, called Abdulmutallab an "educated and adept individual" who made "numerous calculated decisions" in the name of martyrdom.

He said a life sentence was appropriate given the crime, and the defendant's having committed an act of terrorism and "communicated a desire" to undertake more.

McKeague also found no reason to question Abdulmutallab's competence, and said statements were admissible under a public safety exception to the "Miranda" warning against self-incrimination.

Abdulmutallab's bomb sparked a fireball but did not explode on Northwest Airlines Flight 253, which had 289 people on board.

Adbdulmutallab had trained at an al Qaeda camp in Yemen under the direction of U.S.-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. He then traveled to Ghana to conceal his time in Yemen, before going on to Amsterdam. There, he managed to get past airport screeners when questioned about reasons for his travel to the United States.

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