DETROIT — A judge on Friday postponed the sentencing of a Nigerian who tried to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner but said passengers who can't make the new date can speak publicly to the man known as the underwear bomber at court later this month.
U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds moved the sentencing to Feb. 16 to give Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab more time to review a pre-sentence report prepared by the U.S. Probation Department. But if passengers have conflicts and want to stick to the original date, there will be a hearing on Jan. 19 solely to take their statements.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel said at least seven people have expressed interest in speaking, just a fraction of the nearly 300 passengers and crew aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas 2009.
Abdulmutallab tried to ignite a bomb in his underwear on the Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight but it failed. He pleaded guilty in October on the second day of his trial and faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison.
Abdulmutallab, accused of working for the terrorist group al-Qaida, said he was retaliating for the U.S. treatment of Muslims around the world.
He's been in custody at a federal prison in Milan, Mich., since his arrest.
Abdulmutallab, 25, is acting as his own lawyer. The Friday hearing was held in response to his request to get rid of Anthony Chambers, an attorney assigned to assist him. Abdulmutallab says they rarely meet or talk, and he asked for a lawyer who is Muslim.
Chambers denied the allegations. Edmunds said he would stay on the case.
"Mr. Chambers and his staff have done an extraordinary job ... far more than what standby counsel usually does," the judge said, adding that Abdulmutallab doesn't even have a right to standby counsel if he's representing himself.
Lori and Kurt Haskell, two suburban Detroit lawyers who were on Flight 253, said they would speak in court on Feb. 16. Kurt Haskell believes the U.S. government conspired with Abdulmutallab and outfitted him with an intentionally defective bomb.
On his blog, Haskell suggests Abdulmutallab will be "secretly released after sentencing."
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