Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Christmas Day underwear bomber trial begins in Detroit

By Tresa Baldas, and David Ashenfelter

DETROIT – Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is going to trial Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Detroit, nearly two years after authorities say he tried to blow up an airliner on Christmas Day with a bomb hidden in his underwear.
  • Accused underwear bomber in what was supposed to be his farewell 
message. SITE Intelligence Group, AFP/Getty Images
    Accused underwear bomber in what was supposed to be his farewell message.
SITE Intelligence Group, AFP/Getty Images

Accused underwear bomber in what was supposed to be his farewell message.
The highly-anticipated terror trial will begin with opening statements from the government, which has a stockpile of evidence, including incriminating statements from the defendant and a planeload of witnesses who will testify against him.

Abdulmutallab is charged with trying to blow up a Detroit-bound jetliner carrying more than 300 people using explosives hidden in his underwear. The plot was foiled when passengers and crew members overcame the suspect, who suffered burns to his genitals and legs in the incident.

Anthony Chambers, who is serving as stand-by counsel to Abdulmutallab, will deliver opening statements for the defendant. Although Abdulmutallab is representing himself, he decided on Friday to let Chambers deliver the opening statement to the jury.

The defense has said it may call two airline passengers who were on the flight that Christmas Day to testify on Abdulmutallab’s behalf. Those passengers are Kurt and Lori Haskell, both attorneys with offices in Taylor.

Kurt Haskell has claimed that he saw an older, well-dressed Indian man help Abdulmutallab board the Detroit-bound flight in Amsterdam, Netherlands, without a passport. Authorities have discounted Haskell’s theory, but Haskell is adamant that the government is covering something up, and has claimed so at several pretrial hearings that he has attended.

During the trial, which is expected to last four weeks, the government will present a stockpile of evidence to the jury, including testimony from several airline passengers and an incriminating statement from the defendant, in which he admits to being an al-Qaida operative and talks about becoming radicalized.
The government also will show the jury:

• A replica of the explosive used in the foiled plot.

• A video demonstration of the bomb — a plastic bag filled with chemicals and a syringe — being detonated.

• A clip of an al-Qaeda-produced video, America and the Final Trap, in which al-Qaeda leaders praise Abdulmutallab for his efforts.

Among the government’s key pieces of evidence is a statement that Abdulmutallab made to agents in a hospital room, in which he admitted that he was an al-Qaida operative from Yemen, talked about how he had become radicalized and about how he and others discussed ways to attack the U.S.

The defense tried to get the statement thrown out. U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds kept it in.
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