Jury selection began on Tuesday for terror suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], the Nigerian accused of attempting to bring down a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit with a bomb in his underwear on Christmas Day, 2009. Abdulmutallab will stand trial for eight felony charges and may face life in prison [Reuters report] if he is convicted of an attempt to detonate a weapon of mass destruction. The 24-year-old student claimed that senior al Qaeda leader, American-born Anwar al-Awlaki [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] is still alive [AP report], despite reports that a CIA drone strike in Yemen Friday killed al-Awlaki [JURIST report]. Abdulmutallab said he wants to represent himself in trial, making the jury process unpredictable. Approximately 250 potential jurors have filled out questionnaires, and 12 jurors will be selected along with four alternatives. Opening arguments will begin on October 11.
In September, a judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that statements made by Abdulmutallab while in the hospital following his alleged attempt to detonate a bomb on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 are admissible. In December 2010, a federal grand jury charged [JURIST report] Abdulmutallab with 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.