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Accused plane bomber facing additional federal charges

Nigerian national Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], accused of attempting to set off an explosive device on a flight last December, was arraigned Thursday in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan [official website; case materials] on two new federal charges. A federal grand jury charged Abdulmutallab Wednesday on two new counts of conspiracy and firearm possession, in addition to the six previous charges [JURIST report] of 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. Federal Judge Nancy Edmunds granted Abdulmutallab's request to represent himself, but also appointed a standby lawyer who will have access to discovery materials, saying that the appointment was necessary because of Abdulmutallab's lack of training in US law [TNN report]. Edmunds scheduled the next pretrial hearing for January 12 and set a deadline of February 26 for pretrial motions.

Abdulmutallab fired his court-appointed lawyers [JURIST report] in September, accusing them of not serving his best interest and saying that he preferred to represent himself. Edmunds cautioned Abdulmutallab about proceeding without representation and questioned him for approximately 30 minutes regarding his knowledge of the law and criminal procedure. She ultimately allowed Abdulmutallab to dismiss his court-appointed lawyers, although she indicated that she believed the decision was not wise. In June, Edmunds denied a motion [JURIST report] filed on behalf of the Nigerian government seeking to formally observe Abdulmutallab's trial, stating that the court record is already open to the public. The government sought to observe the proceedings [Bloomberg report] in order to guarantee that Nigerian-born Abdulmutallab received a fair trial and that the reputation of Nigeria was protected, but the lawyer for the government later asked to withdraw the motion. In February, US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] defended his decision [JURIST report] to try the accused bomber in federal court rather than a military tribunal. Abdulmutallab has pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to the charges against him for allegedly attempting to set off an explosive device on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 bound from Amsterdam to Detroit.

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