US court upholds Abdulmutallab’s life sentence

Semiu Salami
Semiu Salami
Farouk Abdulmutallab

The son of a prominent Nigerian businessman, Umar Abdulmutallab, who on Christmas Day in 2009, tried to bomb a United States airliner, by setting off an explosive hidden in his underwear, Farouk Abdulmutallab, on Monday, had his life sentence upheld by a US Federal Appeals court.

Reuters reports that the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals rejected arguments by Abdulmutallab, that the trial judge had erred by letting him represent himself despite doubts about his competency.

Abdulmutallab also known as the underwear bomber also argued through his lawyer Travis Rossman, that he had made incriminating statements without having first been read his rights.

The court rejected Abdulmutallab’s argument that the life sentence was cruel and unusual punishment. In a 3-0 decision, the appeals court also affirmed the conviction and life sentence. The court says the judge did nothing wrong in declining to order a mental health exam.

It added that the complexity of Abdulmutallab’s plot to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight, shows he was competent to stand trial. There was no immediate comment from Rossman’s office.

Abdulmutallab had on Christmas Day in Decemebr 2009, attempted to blow up a plane by detonating chemicals in his underwear, just seven minutes before the jet carrying 279 passengers and a crew of 11 was to land at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

However, the bomb didn’t go off as planned. Passengers assisted by crew members saw flames and pounced on Abdulmutallab.

Abdulmutallab’s ability to defeat airport security in Amsterdam accelerated the deployment of full-body scanners at American airports. The Transportation Security Administration was using the scanners in some U.S. cities at the time, but the attack accelerated their placement. There are now nearly 500 devices nationwide in the US.

He confessed to US authorities that he had trained in Yemen, home base for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. He said he was influenced by al-Awlaki, who was killed Friday by an air strike that President Obama called a “major blow” (video) to al Qaeda’s most dangerous franchise.

Prior to the Christmas Day bombing, Abdulmutallab lived a life of wealth and priviledge.  His father, Mutallab, an influential banker, connected in Nigerian politics, had reportedly said that  his first son became radicalised while studying at the British School in Lome, Togo.

Abdulmutallab’s history teacher, Michael Rimmer, described him  as “every teacher’s dream – very keen, enthusiastic, very bright, very polite”. He had excelled in Islamic scholarship at the British school and gained a reputation for preaching to other students, Rimmer had reportedly said.

In 2001 during a class discussion on the Taliban, Abdulmutallab alone, reportedly spoke in defence of the Taliban while his muslim classmates thought they were just fanatics.

However, people close to him have said Abdulmutallab was increasingly showing signs of extremist views before his attempted act of terrorism. After his arrest, his family reportedly said  they had not heard from him since October 2009.

Abdulmutallab was later linked by US and Yemeni officials, to radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, whom he is said to have met while in Yemen before the attack.

He was said to have been trained for the attack in Yemen, by the Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Having pleaded guilty at his trial in Detroit, he is set to face life in prison when he is sentenced on 12 January 2012.

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