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Underwear bomber asks judge for new lawyer

By David Ashenfelter, Detroit Free Press –

DETROIT — Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian student who pleaded guilty against the advice of his standby lawyer to trying to blow up a Detroit-bound jetliner on Christmas Day 2009, wants a new lawyer.

He told U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds in a letter that arrived Monday that prominent Detroit criminal lawyer Anthony Chambers doesn’t visit him and has failed to provide documents he requested for his upcoming sentencing. He said Chambers’ associates, who have visited him, have lied to him.

He asked Edmunds to appoint a Muslim lawyer.

She set a hearing on the request for Jan. 6. He is to be sentenced Jan. 19
Chambers, reached Monday night, said Abdulmutallab is misguided.

“I think he is a troubled young man who is misguided and confused,” Chambers said. “We have gone above and beyond for him … He’s having regrets over what I would consider a bad decision” to plead guilty.

Chambers said he plans to continue serving as Abdulmutallab’s standby lawyer unless Edmunds appoints someone else.

In a letter dated Dec. 12, Abdulmutallab said, “I do not want Mr. Chambers and his associates to continue serving as my standby counsel. Our relationship is strained to say the least. They treat me with contempt, especially away from the eyes of the court.

“They do not wish to visit me or provide me with legal documents I want to view, especially if in their opinion they think it would not help me ‘legally’ or with my life …” he continued. He said he hadn’t seen Chambers in months, although Chambers’ associates have continued to visit him.

Edmunds appointed Chambers to serve as Abdulmutallab’s standby lawyer after Abdulmutallab fired federal defender Miriam Siefer and her staff. She, like Chambers, is considered a top Detroit criminal lawyer.

Though he insisted on representing himself, he relied heavily on Chambers to question potential jurors for his trial. Abdulmutallab pleaded guilty — against Chambers’ advice — in October just as the first trial witness was to be called.

The Nigerian student-turned-al-Qaida operative pleaded guilty to trying to detonate a bomb concealed in his underwear on an Amsterdam-to-Detroit jetliner carrying more than 300 people. The plot was foiled when passengers and crew members overcame him. He suffered burns to his genitals and legs in the incident.

He told Edmunds he tried to carry out the bombing in retaliation for the murder of innocent civilians in Iraq, Israel, Afghanistan, Somalia and elsewhere by the United States. He said that committing jihad against the United States is one of “the most virtuous acts” a Muslim can perform and warned that if the U.S. continued to murder innocent Muslims, a calamity would befall the country.

“If you laugh at us now, we will laugh at you later,” he said.

He faces a mandatory life prison sentence on some of the charges.

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