The Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a jet on Christmas 2009 caused a stir in court Wednesday, shouting "Usama is alive!" and "Allah Akbar!" during the questioning of potential jurors in his case.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 24, who is accused of trying detonate explosives hidden in his underwear on a Detroit-bound plane, sat through final pretrial motions and instructions to 250 potential jurors in a federal court.
Abdulmutallab, wearing a black skullcap, long white T-shirt and khaki pants, was on the eighth floor of the courthouse watching by video conference as District Court Judge Nancy Edmunds distributed questionnaires to the jury candidates down on the first floor of the courthouse. The separation was "for security reasons," the U.S. Marshals said.
Abdulmutallab's outbursts were in reply to Edmunds as she mentioned his name to the jury. He then continued the drama by refusing to stand up, and instead putting his feet on the desk in front of him. U.S. Marshals standing nearby forced him to comply.
At one point, the defense tried unsuccessfully to get the case moved out of Detroit and get Abdulmutallab freed. The suspect said he shouldn’t be judged by U.S. law and calmly told Edmunds, “I’m judged by the Koran ... Allow me to practice my religion the way I’m supposed to.”
During later pretrial motions, Adulmutallab seemed calmer and more respectful. He sat quietly with his hands clasped in front of him as his court-appointed legal advisor, Anthony Chambers, stood nearby to confer with him. During the courtroom break, the defendant threw a white button-down shirt over his T-shirt but left it unbuttoned.
When Edmunds suggested Abdulmutallab button his shirt, in order to make a better impression with the jurors, he buttoned it up only about halfway.
There are several issues being raised in the final pretrial motions. Prosecutors want to include as evidence comments the defendant made just after the alleged bombing attempt, as he was being treated at the hospital. A nurse, Julia Longenecker, was called to testify that Abdulmutallab was badly burned "on his scrotum, thigh and the shaft of his penis" because the device apparently ignited in his underwear before he was able to completely pull it out.
A potent pain reliever, Fentanyl, was used to treat him, because the areas where he was burned "would be very painful," Longenecker said, although she testified that Abdulmutallab was lucid and "appropriate" in answering her questions.
In what may have been a victory for the defense, FBI Agent Tim Waters testified that Abdulmutallab wasn't read his Miranda rights before or during questioning at the hospital.
Contrary to initial reports that the suspect had been recruited for a terror mission, Waters testified that Abdulmutallab said he went searching for Al Qaeda and eventually found members in a mosque.
When asked why he chose Christmas Day for his attack, the defendant apparently told Walters that it had no significance.
Jury selection begins Oct. 4. The trial is scheduled to begin Oct. and take about four weeks.