Trial of accused Christmas "underpants" bomber opens

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 11, 2011 7:58 AM
Trial of accused Christmas "underpants" bomber opens

DETROIT (Reuters) - Opening statements begin on Tuesday in the trial of a young Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day 2009 by hiding a bomb in his underpants.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, whose unsuccessful attack led to a further tightening of U.S. aviation security, is charged with attempting to detonate explosives sewn into his underwear as Northwest Flight 253 approached Detroit from Amsterdam.

The device malfunctioned and burned Abdulmutallab, who was then overpowered by other passengers. He has been in U.S. custody ever since.

Al Qaeda's Yemen-based arm claimed responsibility for the attack, which was also praised by Osama bin Laden months before the al Qaeda leader was killed in a U.S. raid in Pakistan.

Abdulmutallab is charged with eight felonies, including conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism, attempted murder, and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. He faces life in prison if convicted.

The trial, taking place under high security inside the Theodore Levin U.S. Courthouse in downtown Detroit, is expected to last at least a month.

Abdulmutallab, 24, has told the court he wants to represent himself at trial. But he will not present his opening statement. Instead, Anthony Chambers, the back-up counsel appointed by the court who has helped Abdulmutallab with pretrial motions and jury selection, will address the jury on the Nigerian's behalf.

Abdulmutallab had told U.S. investigators he received the bomb and training from al Qaeda militants in Yemen, U.S. officials have said. The botched attack thrust the Arab state to the forefront of U.S. security concerns.

The 12-person jury, sworn in last Thursday by Judge Nancy Edmunds of U.S. District Court, is comprised of three men and nine women and includes a homemaker, a housekeeper, a nurse's aide and the wife of a Baptist pastor.

(Reporting by James B. Kelleher. Editing by Peter Bohan)