Underwear bomb suspect challenges his detention
Abdulmutallab says he should be judged by Islamic, not U.S., law
Robert Snell and Oralandar Brand-Williams/ The Detroit News
Detroit— Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the “underwear bomber” accused of trying to blow up an airliner over Metro Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, asked a judge Thursday to free him from prison, arguing he should be judged by the Quran, not U.S. laws.
The handwritten request, in which Abdulmutallab claims he is being “unjustly detained,” injected religion into arguably the most high-profile criminal terror case in the United States since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Legal and cultural experts called Abdulmutallab’s request fruitless, with one labeling it a “sideshow antic,” though it served as the latest curveball by a Nigerian suspect whose own legal adviser questioned the man’s ability to stand trial while serving as his own lawyer.
“If he was in the land of Saudi Arabia or Iran and he attempted the same act, I don’t think he would be making that request, because his punishment may be more strict,” said Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations. “He really needs to be quiet with these sideshow antics. He is going to get his wish by the Quran, by God, when he dies. He will be judged by the American court right now.”
‘Excessive force’ claimed
The request came as Abdulmutallab, 24, claimed in a separate filing that he assaulted several prison guards Wednesday while observing the holy month of Ramadan. The guards responded by using excessive force to restrain him inside the federal prison in Milan, Abdulmutallab claimed.
The filing doesn’t make clear what prompted the alleged assault, but Abdulmutallab seems to make a connection to his observance of the Muslim holiday.
Abdulmutallab, who fired his legal team last year and faces an Oct. 4 trial, asked U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds to protect him from prison guards.
His legal adviser, Detroit lawyer Anthony Chambers, sent lawyers to visit Abdulmutallab in prison Thursday following the incident.
“He’s doing OK,” Chambers said. “Obviously, there are some issues going on. I don’t know what triggered anything. It is Ramadan month. He is observing, but what happened, I do not know.”
A Bureau of Prisons spokesman was unaware of the incident.
“In a situation where force is used, we only use the force that is necessary to control the situation,” Bureau of Prisons spokesman Chris Burke said.
Abdulmutallab wrote that the incident happened between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. Wednesday.
“Defendant Abdulmutallab, in defense of Muhammad (peace be upon him … the messenger of Allah to Mankind who is being defamed and abused by the United States of America) assaulted several officers from his cell,” he wrote.
“As a result, excessive force was used to restrain defendant Abdulmutallab who was already in a closed cell on his own.”
He asked Edmunds to order prison guards not to use excessive force while he is “justly defending Muhammad and his religion,” according to the court filing.
Request has ‘zero’ chance
Islam’s holiest month, Ramadan, requires Muslims to fast from dawn to dusk.
Known as the “blessed month,” it is marked by prayers, works of charity and abstinence from food, tobacco, sex and liquids during the day. The religious observance began Aug. 1 and ends Tuesday.
In a filing Thursday, Abdulmutallab said he is being unjustly detained in the United States and “subjected to the Rule of Man.”
Abdulmutallab asked Edmunds to order his release and that he be judged and ruled “by the law of the Quran.”
Imam Steve Mustapha Elturk, president of the Islamic Organization of North America, called Abdulmutallab “a fool.”
“If he wants to be judged by the Quran, he’s going to be convicted,” Elturk said. “The Quran condemns killing innocent people.”
Abdulmutallab’s request for freedom has “zero” chance of being granted, said Peter Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University and ex-federal prosecutor.
“That argument has never worked in a U.S. court,” Henning said.
“You are judged, and international law recognizes, by the law of the nation where your crime took place.”
Victor Begg, a co-founder of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan, agreed.
“Law of the land follows American criminal code,” he said Thursday. “… No other law… can be applied in America.”
Abdulmutallab faces charges that could keep him in prison for life, including conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism, attempted murder inside an aircraft, taking a bomb onboard a plane and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.
He is accused of trying to kill nearly 300 people aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253. Prosecutors contend he concealed explosive chemicals in his underwear and tried to detonate them as the flight from Amsterdam approached Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
Correction: This story has been updated to fix a misquote of Dawud Walid.