News / USA

Not Guilty Plea Entered for US Plane Bomb Suspect

A vehicle enters the garage at Federal Courthouse in Detroit before a hearing for Nigerian bombing suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 08 Jan 2010
A vehicle enters the garage at Federal Courthouse in Detroit before a hearing for Nigerian bombing suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 08 Jan 2010

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Kane Farabaugh

Terror suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab has pleaded not guilty in a Detroit Federal courtroom to charges he attempted to ignite an explosive device on a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam, Netherlands to Detroit, Michigan on Christmas Day. If convicted, Abdulmutallab could face life in prison.

23-year-old Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab with al-Qaida links appeared in court on charges he tried to blow up an U.S. bound airliner.  The short appearance Friday before U.S. Magistrate Mark Randon was Abdulmutallab's first since being arrested on Christmas Day.

He is indicted on six counts that include attempted murder for trying to ignite an explosive device on Northwest Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit.  The device was concealed in his underwear, and failed to detonate.  Other passengers and crew restrained Abdulmutallab until the flight landed.

Former Federal Prosecutor Aiten Goelman believes that despite the not guilty plea, this is a case that will likely lead to a conviction against Abdulmutallab. "It is a slam dunk. I think if you have many people in a confined place like an airplane who saw what Mr. Abdulmutallab was apparently trying to do, you have the fact that he was actually apprehended on the plane, that they found explosives - two different kinds of explosives  in his underwear.  I think that if he was predisposed to fight the charges kind of on the grounds that 'you've gotthe wrong guy,' that would be a very tough sell before a jury," he said.

During the hearing, Abdulmutallab's public defense attorney, Miriam Siefer, agreed to his continued detention at a federal facility in nearby Ann Arbor. 

Security was tight in Detroit, as protestors gathered outside the courthouse during the hearing.

Members of the local Nigerian and Muslim communities in Michigan turned out to show their opposition to acts of terrorism.

It is not the first time Detroit has been at the center of a terrorism case.  In 2003, four North Africans suspected of belonging to a terrorist sleeper cell were on trial at the same Detroit courthouse.  It was the first trial stemming from the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Two of the suspects were convicted, but the case was later thrown out of court.

If convicted in the current case, the charges against Abdulmutallab do not carry the death penalty, but he could spend the rest of his life in prison.

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