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Abdulmutallab pleads guilty, warns U.S. of ‘day of judgment’

by Candice Miller on October 13, 2011

Al-Qaida operative tells court he wanted to avenge U.S. killings of Muslims abroad
Detroit— Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab said he tried to blow up a Detroit-bound airplane to avenge the killing of Muslims worldwide by the United States, an admission following a surprise guilty plea Wednesday in a high-profile terrorism case.
The guilty plea and a threatening rant against the United States abruptly halted the second day of the “underwear bomber’s” trial in federal court and came almost two years after he tried to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day 2009.
He pleaded guilty to eight charges, including attempted murder, attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism. The 25-year-old Nigerian and self-described al-Qaida operative faces up to life in prison when sentenced Jan. 12.
Abdulmutallab said the bomb was a “blessed weapon to save the lives of innocent Muslims” and that he wanted to retaliate against the United States for its support of Israel.
“Participation in jihad against the United States is considered among the most virtuous of deeds in Islam and is highly encouraged in the Quran,” Abdulmutallab told the judge, reading from a hand-written statement.
Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations, on Wednesday said Abdulmutallab has a perverse understanding of the Quran.
“The Quran clearly states whoever kills an innocent soul has committed an act like murdering all of humanity, and the Quran commands Muslims not to kill themselves,” Walid said.
“Abdulmutallab’s failed attack meant to kill innocent people as well as himself, which are clear violations of the Quran.”
Abdulmutallab did not negotiate any deal with the government, and legal experts expect he will spend the rest of his life in the nation’s only Supermax prison, which is in Colorado and dubbed the “Alcatraz of the Rockies.” That’s where several high-profile terrorists and inmates are incarcerated, including Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and shoe bomber Richard Reid.
Plea marks major victory
Abdulmutallab was on trial for a crime conceived in Yemen, where he was trained by al-Qaida operatives. It was a crime hailed by slain terror leader Osama bin Laden and inspired by radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who investigators say helped radicalize Abdulmutallab, transforming him from a privileged graduate school student into an international terrorist.
The failed bombing exposed gaps in airport security after prosecutors say Abdulmutallab managed to board the flight from Amsterdam to Detroit with the device, an act that led to stiffer security measures nationwide.
The guilty plea marked a major victory against terrorism for the U.S. Justice Department.
“Fighting terrorism is the No. 1 priority of the Department of Justice,” U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said. “We understand our deep responsibility to the American people to prevent terrorism. It’s what keeps us up at night, and we’re so glad this defendant will spend the rest of his life in prison.”
The plea revived criticism from those who believe Abdulmutallab should have been tried in military court.
U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Twp., pointed to the expense in prosecuting Abdulmutallab and fears expressed by potential jurors as reasons why he shouldn’t have been tried in a civilian court. Miller said the trial gave Abdulmutallab a platform to spew hatred.
She called the guilty plea “a rare outbreak of common sense.”
McQuade defended the approach. “We got a chance to show the world that our system of justice works,” she said.
Jurors declined to talk to the media about the case or the guilty plea.
Unexpected end to trial
Passenger Dimitrious Bessis welcomed an end to the terror case.
A Georgia resident who sat two rows behind Abdulmutallab on the plane, Bessis, 47, tried to put out the fire with a Brooks Brothers hat his father gave him.
“I have nightmares about what happened,” he said, “but it’s over with, thank God.”
The plea was unexpected and ended a criminal trial filled with unexpected outbursts by Abdulmutallab.
He fired court-appointed lawyers last year. During court hearings, he propped a foot on the defense table and shouted that bin Laden and al-Awlaki were alive. He called the United States “a cancer.”
The plea came against the advice of his legal adviser, Detroit lawyer Anthony Chambers.
Chambers was disappointed by the plea.
“It’s like a fighter who prepared for a 10-round fight and then it got canceled,” Chambers said.
Abdulmutallab started discussing a guilty plea privately Tuesday with Chambers during a break in the trial.
The trial continued anyway with prosecutors delivering an opening statement and putting one witness on the stand, a passenger from Wisconsin who saw Abdulmutallab enveloped in flames.
Jurors excused
The trial resumed Wednesday, but the judge quickly called a recess before jurors entered the courtroom. Approximately one hour later, Abdulmutallab returned to the courtroom and pleaded guilty.
“I believe he is a misguided, impressionable young man, as many college students are,” Chambers said. “And I think he had something he wanted to say.”
Chambers said he believes he could have won the case.
“I thought the evidence was lacking,” the attorney said.
Chambers pointed to incriminating statements Abdulmutallab made to federal agents and a nurse at the University of Michigan Hospital following the attack.
U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds said national security fears justified agents not reading Abdulmutallab his Miranda rights, but the issue could have been appealed following the trial.
After the trial turned into a plea hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel asked Abdulmutallab if he carried an explosive device on board.
“If you say so,” said Abdulmutallab, dressed in a dark sport coat and a long khaki-colored dashiki that flowed to his ankles.
“You knew it was an explosive, correct?” Tukel asked him.
“Yes,” he answered.
“It was intended to explode?” Tukel asked him.
“Yes,” Abdulmutallab answered.
Afterward, Abdulmutallab railed against the United States.
“The United States should be warned,” he said. “If you laugh at us now, we will laugh at you later in this life and at the day of judgment.”
He shouted “Allahu Akbar (God is great)!” before being handcuffed and escorted out of the courtroom by a deputy U.S. Marshal.
The judge then called jurors into the courtroom, announced the plea and excused them.
Jurors filed out one by one, the jury room door closing behind them.
From behind that door, a cheer erupted, the sound carrying into the judge’s courtroom.
The judge laughed.

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