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Trial of alleged Nigerian bomber begins

Alleged Nigerian Bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’

s appeared before a judge for the first time Friday

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s arraignment was brief — less than five minutes — and a not guilty plea was entered on his behalf. He said little, telling the judge simply that he understood the charges against him.

A grand jury indicted him earlier this week on six charges. The most serious — attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction — could land Abdulmutallab in prison for life if convicted.

During Friday’s arraignment, Abdulmutallab, who wore a white T-shirt, tennis shoes and a chain shackle at his ankles, stood at the podium and answered questions in English from U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark A. Randon.

He said “yes” when asked if he understood the charges against him and said he had taken “some pain pills” after the judge inquired whether he had taken any drugs or alcohol in the past 24 hours. Abdulmutallab, who is being held at a federal prison in Milan, Mich., had been treated at a hospital for burns after the attack.

His attorneys then waived the reading of the indictment, and Randon entered the not-guilty plea. It is routine practice in federal court for the defendant to allow the judge to enter a plea rather than say anything himself.

His defense attorney, Miriam Siefer, also did not challenge the government’s request to keep Abdulmutallab in pre-trial custody.

Maryam Uwais, a lawyer in Nigeria, and Mahmud Kazaure, a lawyer from Maryland, told The Associated Press that they were sent by Abdulmutallab’s family to observe the hearing. Neither have a role in the case, but both spoke briefly with the suspect’s legal team. They declined to further comment.

Earlier in the day, authorities set up metal barricades outside the courthouse and limited foot traffic in the area. A protester stood holding a sign that read: “No U.S. Rights For Terrorists.”

About 50 men and women identifying themselves as Detroit-area Muslims chanted “We are Americans” as they marched behind metal barricades outside the courthouse to denounce terrorism. About a dozen of them carried U.S. flags or signs with messages such as “Not in the name of Islam.”

Four Muslims who were part of the protest performed Friday prayers in the court’s small museum located on the first floor.

“We have prayer rugs outside in the car. We could have done a show for the media,” protest organizer Majed Moughni said. “We’re doing this for God.”

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Associated Press writers Mike Householder and Jeff Karoub contributed to this report.