DETROIT – A federal judge in Detroit refused Thursday to push back the trial date for a Nigerian man accused of attempting to blow up a plane carrying 292 people using explosives concealed in his underwear.
Jonathan Tukel, chief of the U.S. Attorney's office National Security Unit, successfully argued against any delays to the start of Umar Abdulmutallab's criminal trial.
Anthony Chambers, a standby counsel for Abdulmutallab, had sought a new deadline to challenge evidence presented by the government and wanted more preparation time to assist before the start of the trial.
Judge Nancy Edmunds in the U.S. District Court in Detroit said jury selection will start Oct. 4 as scheduled, with opening statements beginning Oct. 11.
Abdulmutallab, 24, is charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiring with others to kill the 281 passengers and 11 crew members aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day, 2009. U.S investigators believe he received training and instructions from al-Qaida operatives in Yemen, beginning in August 2009.
"The incident occurred almost two years ago," said Edmunds, adding that the defense has enough time to review and respond to evidence that could be presented. She asked both sides how long they thought the trial would take.
"I expect two weeks or less to try the case," Tukel responded.
Abdulmutallab has said he plans to represent himself at trial. The judge wanted to know what, if any, role Chambers will play in his opening statements.
"I imagine I would want to make that myself," Abdulmutallab said.
Law enforcement officials say Abdulmutallab tried to ignite a concoction of highly explosive PETN and possibly a glycol-based liquid explosive hidden in his underwear. It set off popping sounds, smoke and some fire but didn't detonate. Passengers and crew subdued him and extinguished the flames.
He faces life in prison if convicted and is being held without bond at a federal prison in Milan, Mich.
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