A Nigerian man charged with trying to blow up an Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight on December 25 fired his lawyers on Monday and suggested that he wants to plead guilty to some charges against him.
Rod Hansen, a spokesman for the U.S. District Court in Detroit says that during the pre-trial hearing, District Judge Nancy Edmunds was expected to set a date for Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's trial.
"But unexpectedly, the defendant Abdulmutallab, instead told the judge that he wished to represent himself," said Rod Hansen. "At that point, the judge questioned him extensively about that decision, asking if he knew the consequences, if he was familiar with federal law and at the end of it, and cautioned him against representing himself."
Abdulmutallab insisted that he would go ahead on his own.
Judge Edmunds granted his request, but she said she would appoint a stand-by counsel to advise Abdulmutallab on legal maters, if he wants assistance.
Abdulmutallab is charged with six counts, including attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and a willful attempt to destroy an aircraft.
He was arrested on December 25, after passengers on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit subdued him, when they saw his clothing was on fire. Abdulmutallab is suspected of trying to set off a bomb hidden in his underwear.
During Monday's pre-trial hearing, he asked the judge what would happen if he pleaded guilty to some counts?
Court spokesman Rod Hansen:
"The judge, at that point, said, 'I can't answer that kind of question,' and indicated that this is the very reason she wanted stand-by counsel appointed, because those are the kinds of questions that obviously he needs to know the answers to," he said.
Abdulmutallab's former lawyers previously disclosed that they were discussing a possible plea bargain with prosecutors.
He is alleged to have trained with al-Qaida operatives in Yemen.
U.S. law enforcement officials say that Abdulmutallab turned against Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S.-born Yemeni radical who claims to have been his teacher and helped authorities hunt for him while in custody.
In July, the United Nations added Anwar al-Awlaki to its terrorist watch list, a move that requires U.N. member states to freeze his assets and ban his travel.
Authorities admit that the Christmas Day bombing plot exposed flaws in U.S. intelligence and security. Before Abdulmultallab boarded a flight to Detroit, his father warned the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria that his son had drifted toward extremism in Yemen. But Abdulmutallab was not added to a "no-fly" list for terrorism suspects.
Judge Edmunds has yet to name a stand-by counsel for Abdulmutallab, but she says he has agreed to meet with a government attorney within the next week.
Abdulmutallab's next court appearance is expected to be at an October 14 hearing.