Underwear Bomber’s Life Sentence Upheld by Appeals Court

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the man who tried to detonate a bomb hidden in his underwear while aboard a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day 2009, lost a bid to overturn a life sentence imposed in 2012.

A U.S. appeals court today denied the Nigerian-born Adulmutallab’s appeal. He pleaded guilty to eight felony counts, including attempted murder and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, in October 2011 as his trial was to start its second day.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the Cincinnati-based court rejected defense arguments that U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds in Detroit made errors in handling the case, including allowing Abdulmutallab to represent himself at trial and later accepting his guilty plea while doubting his competency.

“We conclude none of these claims have merit,” U.S. Circuit Judge David W. McKeague wrote for the panel.

Abdulmutallab, 27, attempted to detonate the bomb as Northwest Airlines Flight 253, with almost 300 people aboard, approached Detroit on Dec. 25, 2009. He succeeded only in setting fire to his clothing and a wall before passengers subdued him.

Terrorist Training

Abdulmutallab received terrorism training at an al-Qaeda camp in Yemen under the direction of American-born cleric Anwar Awlaki, according to the appellate decision. Awlaki was killed in a September 2011 drone strike.

On appeal, attorneys for Abdulmutallab also challenged the constitutionality of their client’s punishment, arguing that “evolving standards of decency” should have prohibited Edmunds from imposing four life sentences for a crime in which only their client was injured.

Prosecutors responded that Abdulmutallab had tried to blow up an airplane with 289 people aboard for al-Qaeda. The appeals court agreed.

“He may have been the only person harmed, but that is only because his bomb failed to properly work,” the court said.

The case is U.S. v. Abdulmutallab, 12-01207, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (Cincinnati).

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

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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