Underwear bomb suspect's trial set for October

By Ed White

Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) -- A judge on Tuesday set an Oct. 4 trial date for a Nigerian man charged with trying to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day 2009 using a bomb hidden in his underwear.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who is acting as his own lawyer, asked for a 2012 date and said he might not have enough time to prepare. But U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds said a fall trial was best for now.

"We need to move this case along," she said.

Abdulmutallab is charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiring with others to kill 281 passengers and 11 crew members aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253. U.S investigators believe he received training and instructions from al-Qaida operatives in Yemen, beginning in August 2009.

Law enforcement officials say Abdulmutallab tried to ignite a concoction of highly explosive PETN and possibly a glycol-based liquid explosive hidden in his underwear. It set off popping sounds, smoke and some fire but didn't detonate. Passengers and crew subdued him and extinguished the flames.

Anthony Chambers, an attorney assigned to assist Abdulmutallab, said they would "absolutely" challenge the evidence in pretrial motions that are due in June.

"We have reason to believe that device could not have done the damage the government claims," Chambers told The Associated Press.

Abdulmutallab, 24, faces life in prison if convicted. He's being held without bail at a federal prison in Milan, Mich.

He fired his court-appointed attorneys in September and is serving as his own lawyer. The judge has been sensitive to Abdulmutallab's right to represent himself but has repeatedly asked him to consider turning to Chambers instead.

"I'm not comfortable with that," Abdulmutallab said.

Much of the 40-minute hearing was dominated by discussion about lawyers and how Abdulmutallab can see files held by his former legal team.

Outside court, Chambers said he and Abdulmutallab have a good relationship.

"It's a very defensible case. ... We'll do anything we can to help him," he said.

Published: Thu, Jan 27, 2011

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