The Nigerian man known as the “underwear bomber,” who was accused of trying to blow up an airliner on Christmas Day 2009, stunned a courtroom in Detroit in Wednesday by pleading guilty to each of the eight counts against him.
“I’m with al-Qaeda,” he reportedly said shortly after his arrest.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who is not a lawyer but has been representing himself in federal court, agreed to plead guilty on the second day of his trial in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, The New York Times reported.
The charges, including attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiring to commit an act of terrorism, carry a potential punishment of life in prison, but details of the plea arrangement were not immediately know, The Times said.
The defendant, educated and from an affluent Nigerian family, was accused of trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines plane flying from Amsterdam to Detroit with a bomb concealed in his underwear. The government’s case was outlined on Tuesday by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel. But a lawyer assigned to help Abdulmutallab said the defense did not have an opening statement.
“Before his sudden plea, Mr. Abdulmutallab gave few clues as to how he would defend himself against the charges except to make clear that he had intended to call a passenger from among the 290 who were on board,” The Times said.
“His guilty plea is not likely to bring him any break,” Allan Lengel, writing from Detroit on his Tickle the Wire blog, said. Lengel noted that the government had “overwhelming evidence” and had declined to offer leniency. “Since no one died on the flight, he wasn’t going to face the death penalty,” Lengel noted.
Lengel said The Detroit News reported that the plea came after a 45-minute recess before U.S. District Judge Nancy G. Edmunds.
The judge the defendant if he wanted to waive his right to a trial.
“That’s right,” the defendant said.