Federal judge refuses to allow Nigeria to observe plane bombing trial

[JURIST] A federal judge on Tuesday denied a motion filed on behalf of the Nigerian government seeking to formally observe the trial of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], accused of attempting to set off an explosive device on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 bound from Amsterdam to Detroit last Christmas. The government sought to observe the proceedings [Bloomberg report] in order to guarantee that Nigerian-born Abdulmutallab receives a fair trial and that the reputation of Nigeria is protected. The government also requested to receive copies of all court filings. Presiding judge Nancy Edmunds of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan [official website] denied the request [Detroit News report], stating that the court record is already open to the public. The lawyer for the Nigerian government later asked to withdraw the motion. Abdulmutallab, who is currently being held in Milan, was not present at the hearing.

Last month, US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] reacted to criticism surrounding the reading of Miranda Rights to Abdulmutallab, stating that the Obama administration plans to ask Congress to enact legislation [JURIST report] allowing interrogators to question terror suspects for a longer period of time than currently allowed before informing them of their constitutional rights to remain silent and be represented by an attorney. In February, Holder defended his decision [JURIST report] to try Abdulmutallab in federal court rather than a military tribunal. Abdulmutallab is charged [JURIST report] with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, attempted murder within the special aircraft jurisdiction of the US, willful attempt to destroy or wreck an aircraft, willfully placing a destructive device on an aircraft, use of a firearm/destructive device during and in relation to a crime of violence and possession of a firearm/destructive device in furtherance of a crime of violence. A plea of not guilty [JURIST report] has been entered on his behalf.

 

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