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Nigeria to Observe Trial of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab

Nigerian Government  has sent observers to the case against Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who attempted to blow up a United States-bound Delta Airliner on Christmas Day last year, which comes up in a Michigan, US court today.

US-based lawyer Mr. Kayode Oladele has disclosed that the Federal Government wants to make an appearance in the case.

In a motion filed yesterday, Oladele was quoted by The Detroit News as saying that the Nigerian government wants to formally observe all proceedings and receive copies of all court filings “to ensure that the integrity of Nigeria is well protected.”

Sources at the Nigerian Embassy in Washington, DC, confirmed that a Nigerian-born US-based lawyer had been contacted to attend all the hearings and give a feedback to the embassy on the progress of the case.

THISDAY also learnt that no less than 20 witnesses who were in the aircraft with Abdulmutallab would testify before the court.
One of the witnesses from Canada, Mrs. Shama Chopra, in a statement issued through her husband, Mr. Raman Chopra, and made available to THISDAY yesterday said the Northwest 253 attempted bombing by Abdulmutallab is not an isolated incident, noting that  there are many like him.

“On the other hand, I congratulate Mrs. and Mr. Mutallab for their full co-operation with the authorities. Mr. Mutallab is an example as to how religion and modern education can go side by side. I encourage them to work hard to spread this message to everybody so as to avoid another near tragedy like Northwest 253. To work hard that no person be radicalized in the future,” she said

She stated that what needs to be done is that the authorities must denounce the doctrine of armed Jihad and vigourously counter it.

“The authorities must work hard to address the fact that no more innocent people be killed and a peaceful solution be found to end this cycle of violence,”  she said.

Meanwhile, a pretrial conference in the case is set for 2 p.m. Abdulmutallab is not expected to attend. Abdulmutallab was 23 when he allegedly concealed explosive chemicals in his underwear and tried to detonate them as a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam approached Detroit Metropolitan Airport .
He is being held at a Milan prison.

Passengers and crew put out a small fire aboard the flight, which carried 279 passengers and 11 crew members.

“The government of Nigeria has a zero tolerance for terrorism and the government is committed to all the United Nations resolutions in the fight against terrorism,” Oladele said in the court filing.

“However, this case is a public interest case that involves unusually extensive and complex legal issues and … it is therefore in the overriding public interest that the government of Nigeria be permitted to enter an appearance to formally observe the proceedings for the purpose of ensuring that the defendant who is a citizen of Nigeria is accorded fair trial thereby protecting his rights to due process.”

Attorneys representing Nigeria have attended earlier court hearings in the case. But up until now, they have not attempted to file a formal appearance in the case before US District Judge Nancy G. Edmunds.
At the last hearing on April 13, which lasted less than six minutes, prosecutors had revealed that they already shared several documents and additional evidence with Abdulmutallab’s lawyers but would still need to share more.

Defense lawyer, Jill Price, had argued that it takes much time to show evidence to Abdulmutallab because visiting hours are limited at a federal prison in Milan, Michigan, where he is being detained. District Judge Nancy Edmunds, who didn’t set a trial date, had asked for another update on June 22.

Abdulmutallab was charged on December 26, 2009, in a US District Court for  Eastern District of Michigan, with two criminal counts: attempting to blow up and placing a destructive device on a US civil aircraft. Additional charges were added in a grand jury indictment on January 6, 2010, which included attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and attempted murder of 289 people. If convicted,  he faces a life sentence plus 90 years in prison.

At his first appearance in court on January 8, 2010, Abdulmutallab pleaded not guilty. His first appearance attracted protesters who stood outside the courtroom denouncing acts of terror.  He did not however, appear at the last hearing and it is uncertain if he would be physically present in court today.
Abdulmutallab’s attorney, Miriam Siefer of the Federal Public Defender Office in Detroit, said she hadn’t yet seen Nigeria’s filing and couldn’t immediately comment on it.

Dean Boyd, a Justice Department spokesman, declined to comment on the filing. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency said it learned about Abdulmutallab in November, when his father went to the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria to seek help in finding him

Meanwhile, several days after some Nigerians alleged to be involved in a multi-million dollar identity theft scam were arraigned in a New York Court,  the Nigerian Embassy in Washington DC, said it had not been officially informed of the involvement of Nigerians in the alleged scam.

When THISDAY called the Nigerian Ambassador to US Prof. Adebowale Adefuye to get his reaction on the development,  he said neither  the embassy in Washington DC nor the mission in New York   had been officially informed.

Adefuye, who was in New York as part of his tour of  US cities that have substantial population of  Nigerians, said efforts would be made to ascertain the nationalities of those arrested because there had been cases in the past when people arrested for crimes claimed to be Nigerians, only for the embassy to establish that they were from other African countries.

While condemning such criminal acts, the envoy said consul officials would be in court at their next arraignment and the mission would ensure that Nigerians among the accused are given their right to fair hearing under the law. Adefuye said Nigeria is vehemently against such acts and urged Nigerians in the country to continue to be law-abiding and  not to engage in acts that would tarnish the image of the nation.

Richmond County, Staten Island and New York Police Department had, last week, named  nine US-based Nigerians among 18 people indicted in a multi-million dollar identity theft scam affecting 27 banks and 60 individuals, including 20 members of the US military, some of whom are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Though the nationalities of those arrested were not stated, those  believed to be Nigerians are Kazeem Badru, Ganiu Rilwan, Okoronkwo Okechukwu (aka Ikeena, Obinna Okoronkwo OT or O-Town), Chukunenye Okpo (aka Chuck), Ishameel Lawandi (aka ISH), Kanayo Unokiwe (aka SAM), Kolawole Adeolike (aka K-Boy), Ayodele Rosiji, Kelechi Ekwegh (aka KC). Others named in the scam are Ethel Jones, Jane Doe, John Doe, Kevin Marshall, Alexias S. Cartews (aka LEX), Corey Mills, Samuel Montgomery (aka ADE) and George Brew (aka OLA).