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Terror jury to see plane bomb model

Jurors at the trial of an alleged al Qaida terrorist will see a model of a bomb hidden in his underwear on a Detroit-bound jet and videos demonstrating the power of the explosive, a judge ruled.

Former London student Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who is charged with trying to destroy the international flight on Christmas Day 2009, said the demonstrations would be unfair. He is acting as his own lawyer.

But US District Judge Nancy Edmunds said the US government had a right to present evidence that he willingly carried a bomb aboard the Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam. The flight had 279 passengers and 11 crew members aboard.

Judge Edmunds also said jury selection would start next Tuesday with 80 people culled from a group of more than 200. Many were eliminated because of work, holidays, school and even a pending kidney donation, while others were excused for having strong feelings about Nigerian Abdulmutallab, 24.

One woman wrote that she feared "crazy relatives of the defendant waiting in the shadows", Judge Edmunds said. "I think we'll excuse her."

At the trial, the government can display a model of the explosive discovered in Abdulmutallab's underwear, chiefly a plastic bag containing a powerful white powder known as PETN.

Investigators recovered 76 grams (2.7oz) but say they believe he actually possessed 200 grams (7oz). The bomb did not explode, but smoke filled the cabin, and Abdulmutallab's groin was badly burned by flames.

Prosecutors can also show video of what happens when 200 grams and 76 grams are detonated. Assistant US Attorney Michael Martin said the video would corroborate the testimony of passengers and help jurors understand a complicated issue.

Abdulmutallab objected, saying it would be "very speculative" to make a link between what happened on Flight 253 and what was later demonstrated in a field. The judge, however, said an experiment in a plane would actually be very harmful to his defence.

She said prosecutors could summon witnesses who were experts on al Qaida and martyrdom and play an al Qaida video that shows Abdulmutallab explaining his suicide mission. Jurors will not, however, see a clip of the late Al Qaida mastermind Osama bin Laden praising the young man as a hero.


From Belfast Telegraph