Nigeria Asks U.S. Court for Permission to Enter Christmas Plane-Bomb Case

Nigeria’s government asked the U.S. judge presiding over the prosecution of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who is accused of trying to blow up a jet on Christmas Day, for permission to enter the case.

Nigeria seeks to observe the proceedings, assure its citizen gets a fair trial and protect the nation’s integrity, according to the filing made today with U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds in Detroit. Nigeria also wants copies of any papers submitted to the judge.

“Nigeria has a zero tolerance for terrorism,” the nation’s lawyers said in a brief accompanying its petition. “However, this case is a public interest case that involves unusually extensive and complex legal issues.”

Abdulmutallab on Jan. 6 was indicted for attempting to detonate explosives hidden in his clothing on a Northwest Airlines jet on Christmas day. The flight, which originated in Amsterdam, carried 290 passengers and crew.

He faces six counts, including attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and attempted murder. The maximum sentence is life in prison, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said when announcing the indictment.

Holder has said that Abdulmutallab, who pleaded not guilty, cooperated in the investigation. Edmunds, in April, scheduled a pre-trial status conference for tomorrow. No trial date has been set.

Diplomatic Relations

Abdulmutallab’s attorney, Miriam Siefer of the Federal Public Defender Office in Detroit, said she hadn’t yet seen Nigeria’s filing and couldn’t immediately comment on it.

Dean Boyd, a Justice Department spokesman, declined to comment on the filing. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency said it learned about Abdulmutallab in November, when his father went to the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria to seek help in finding him.

Nigeria, in its filing, said it also seeks preserve its diplomatic relationship with the U.S.

“The Government of Nigeria is not unmindful of the gravity of this matter and its initial impact on the friendly relations between the United States and Nigeria,” it said. The African nation has a population about 150 million.

Northwest Airlines is part of Delta Air Lines Inc., based in Atlanta.

The case is U.S. v. Abdulmutallab, 10cr20005, in the Eastern District of Michigan (Detroit).

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew M. Harris in Chicago at aharris16@bloomberg.net

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