Abdulmutallab in Life Imprisonment

The Appeal Court in the United States of America has finally upheld the life imprisonment sentence a lower court gave to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab for attempting to bomb US Detroit-bound plane in 2009

By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Jan. 27, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT

THE legal tussle over life imprisonment given to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, fondly called underwear bomber, has come to an end. On January 13, an Appeal Court in the United States of America upheld the sentence and conviction of Abdulmutallab for attempting to bomb a US Detroit-bound plane on December 25, 2009.

The US court affirmed the conviction and life sentence, saying the judge did nothing wrong in declining to order a mental health examination. The court said the complexity of Abdulmutallab’s plot to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day in 2009, showed he was competent to stand trial.

It rejected all of the challenges to the sentence, concluding that “none of these claims have merit.” The court said Abdulmutallab had been represented by a public defender but then in a pre-trial hearing insisted he wanted to represent himself. And a judge warned him of the consequences and even appointed him a standby attorney who consulted with the defendant.

David McKeague, one of the judges, who wrote the opinion for the three-judge appeals court panel, called Abdulmutallab an “educated and adept individual” who made “numerous calculated decisions” in the name of martyrdom. He said a life sentence was appropriate given the crime, and the defendant’s having committed an act of terrorism and “communicated a desire” to undertake more. McKeague also found no reason to question Abdulmutallab’s competence, and said statements were admissible under a public safety exception to the “Miranda” warning against self-incrimination.

Abdulmutallab, son of Umaru Mutallab, former chairman of First bank of Nigeria, who faced eight count charges had in October 2011, pleaded guilty to the charges. He admitted he was outfitted with a bomb on behalf of al-Qaeda, but still appealed his guilty plea, claiming a Detroit federal judge made a series of improper decisions.

However, Abdulmatallab, who had called the bombing attempt his “religious duty” to avenge American attacks against Muslims, pleaded guilty to eight counts charge in October 2011, a day after his trial began. He later argued that the trial judge had erred in allowing him to represent himself despite doubts about his competence, and that statements he made in the hospital were admitted as evidence without a warning he could have an attorney present.

Ahead of the sentencing, Anthony Chambers, assistant defence lawyer to Abdulmutallab, argued that a life sentence for his client would be unconstitutional, since no other passengers were hurt, except him when a bomb sewn into his underwear failed to detonate fully.

Reacting, the family of Abdulmutallab said they were grateful to God that the unfortunate incident did not result in any injury or death and appealed to American government to review the judgement. “We strongly appeal to the American justice department to review the life sentence. We also appeal to the federal Republic of Nigeria to continue with their support and engage with the American government to ensure that a review is made,” the family said.

Abdulmutallab’s bomb sparked a fireball but did not explode on Northwest Airlines Flight 253, which had 289 people on board. He had trained at an al Qaeda camp in Yemen under the direction of U.S.-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. He then travelled to Ghana to conceal his time in Yemen, before going on to Amsterdam. There, he managed to get past airport screeners when questioned about reasons for his travel to the United States.