Accused underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (in photo) pleaded guilty to eight criminal charges, including conspiring to commit terrorism, in a major surprise on the second day of his trial.
U.S. officials called the successful conviction a sign that terrorism can be dealt with in civilian courts.
No sooner had proceedings gotten under way in U.S. District Court in Detroit than Judge Nancy Edmunds called a 45-minute recess to take up an important matter.
When Abdulmutallab returned, his standby defense lawyer, Anthony Chambers, said his client had decided to plead guilty – as charged.
Abdulmutallab, in fluent English, then read from a lengthy statement saying he was guilty under U.S. law, but not under Islamic law, for the crimes charged.
He said he tried to carry out the bombing in retaliation for the murder of innocent civilians by the United States in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Israel and elsewhere.
He warned that a calamity would befall the U.S. if it continued to murder innocent Muslims worldwide
“If you laugh at us now, we will laugh at you later,” he said in the statement.
He said committing jihad against the United States is one of “the most virtuous acts” a Muslim can perform.
Edmunds set his sentencing for Jan. 12.
Abdulmutallab faces a mandatory life in prison. The charges include conspiring to commit terrorism and using a weapon of mass destruction.
‘Courts are an appropriate tool for bringing terrorists to justice’
U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said the guilty plea shows that terrorism suspects can be dealt with in civilian courts.
“Civilian courts are an appropriate tool for bringing terrorists to justice,” she said.
McQuade also stressed that the terror case, and the defendant’s beliefs, are not reflective of the Muslim community. The nature of Abdulmutallab’s plea — which he gave calmly, in open court — proves to the world the fairness of the American justice system, she said.
“He wasn’t tortured to give a plea. He actually admitted it in open court,” she said.
Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement: “Contrary to what some have claimed, today’s plea removes any doubt that our courts are one of the most effective tools we have to fight terrorism and keep the American people safe.
“Our priority in this case was to ensure that we arrested a man who tried to do us harm, that we collected actionable intelligence from him and that we prosecuted him in a way that was consistent with the rule of law. We will continue to be aggressive in our fight against terrorism and those who target us, and we will let results, not rhetoric, guide our actions.”
Andrew Arena, special agent in charge of the FBI office in Detroit, was stunned by today’s guilty plea.
“I gotta tell you I was shocked,” Arena said.
Arena said that the Abdulmutallab case helped the intelligence community. “There’s a lot of stuff we can’t talk about, but we did get more information in the war on terrorism,” he said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel also didn’t see a guilty plea coming.
“I was very surprised,” he said . However, he noted, “We ended up with the same result that we would have at trial.”
The 25-year-old Nigerian student-turned-Islamic-extremist pleaded guilty to trying to bring down a Detroit-bound jetliner on Christmas Day 2009 with a bomb concealed in his underwear. The bomb misfired, passengers and crew wrestled him to the ground and he was taken into custody when the plane landed in Detroit.
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