WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A lawyer for the Nigerian man who pleaded guilty to trying to blow up a U.S. jumbo passenger jet on Christmas Day in 2009 urged a federal judge on Monday not to sentence him to spend the rest of his life in prison because it was cruel and unusual punishment.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 25, pleaded guilty in a federal court in October 2011 of trying to detonate a bomb hidden in his underwear as part of a plot orchestrated by al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
He is due to be sentenced on Thursday in Detroit and faces up to life in prison for the bombing attempt aboard a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit that had 289 people on board.
His lawyer Anthony Chambers argued that the mandatory life sentence required under U.S. law for some of the crimes he admitted to committing was unconstitutional, particularly because no one was seriously hurt during the bombing attempt.
"Given the circumstances and what did NOT occur in the instant matter it is fair to say that the mandatory minimum sentence of life imprisonment is excessive and grossly disproportionate to the conduct," Chambers said in a court filing, emphasizing the word "not."
While not making a specific request, he requested on Abdulmutallab's behalf that the judge impose a sentence below the advisory guideline range because a life sentence would be a "misinterpretation of justice."
Federal prosecutors last week urged the judge to sentence Abdulmutallab to the maximum, consecutive terms of life in prison, and offered new details about how his plot was directed by a U.S.-born Muslim cleric who later joined al Qaeda, Anwar al-Awlaki.
A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.
The bomb plot sent U.S. officials scrambling to beef up security at American airports, including installing full-body scanners to try to detect explosives hidden in clothing. It also widened a fierce debate about whether terrorism suspects should be prosecuted in traditional criminal courts.
(Reporting By Jeremy Pelofsky; Editing by Vicki Allen)