Trial of Nigerian in Failed US Airliner Attack Begins Tuesday

Posted October 11th, 2011 at 11:00 am (UTC-5)
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The trial of a Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a U.S. airliner with a bomb hidden in his underwear begins with opening statements in a U.S. court on Tuesday.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is representing himself in the trial in the U.S. city of Detroit, but he agreed to allow a court-appointed standby attorney to deliver the opening statement on his behalf.

U.S. federal prosecutors are expected to present the jury with a stockpile of evidence, including incriminating statements from the 24-year-old defendant and passengers from the plane who could testify against him.

Abdulmutallab faces multiple charges including conspiracy to commit terrorism in connection with the December 25, 2009, incident on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. Passengers and crew members subdued him after his explosives caught fire but failed to detonate as the plane prepared to land, leaving him with burns.

A key piece of prosecution evidence is a statement that Abdulmutallab made to federal agents in a hospital room, admitting the he was an al-Qaida operative directed by Yemen-based radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. A U.S. drone killed the American-born Awlaki in Yemen last month.

Prosecutors also plan to show the 12 jurors a replica of the explosives used in the failed bombing and a video of Abdulmutallab explaining his suicide mission before the incident.

The defense may call as a witness one of the plane's passengers who claims the failed bombing is part of a U.S. government conspiracy to stage a simulated terrorist attack, in order to justify the wars and costly airport scanning machines. The passenger, Kurt Haskell, has said he saw a well-dressed man help Abdulmutallab bypass security before boarding the flight at Amsterdam's airport. Authorities have discounted that theory.

Abdulmutallab has made several outbursts in pre-trial hearings, proclaiming allegiance to al-Qaida and claiming that Awlaki is still alive.