Abdulmutallab Life Sentence Demonstrates Strength of Federal Courts in Terrorism Cases

Washington, DC – Today, in a Detroit federal courtroom, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was sentenced to life in prison for the attempted murder of 289 passengers on Northwest Airline Flight 253. The sentence was handed down less than six months after Abdulmutallab, better known as the Christmas-day “underwear bomber,” pled guilty in October 2011, just shy of two years after his crime. Human Rights First notes that the case provides further evidence that federal courts are the best option for holding accused terrorists accountable. “Today’s verdict proves once again that the U.S. federal courts are extremely tough on terrorism,” said Human Rights First’s Dixon Osburn. “The Abdulmutallab case was handled as all such cases should be: by U.S. law enforcement, who quickly and lawfully secured a confession from the suspect and then went on to obtain extensive information about his alleged co-conspirator, Anwar al-Awlaki. This is a perfect example of why terrorism should be investigated and prosecuted in the criminal justice system, not by the U.S. military.” Osburn continued, “Abdulmutallab is not a warrior. He is a thug who has been rightly treated like the criminal he is. He will now spend the rest of his life behind bars, unable to harm or threaten anyone. As with hundreds of other terrorism cases since the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government was able to secure that outcome while still respecting basic human rights and the principles of justice upon which this country was founded.” Osburn notes that U.S. federal courts have a long track record of successfully bringing to justice over 400 individuals on terrorism-related charges. By contrast, the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay have convicted only six terrorists since their creation in 2001, and continue to face serious legal challenges that undermine the sustainability and credibility of their verdicts. In this case, prosecutors were able to gather truthful information from Abdulmutallab because of their willingness to allow him to plead guilty. Human Rights First, working with former federal prosecutors, has extensively analyzed the U.S. federal justice system’s handling of al Qaeda-linked terrorism cases since September 11, 2001. Its report, Pursuit of Justice, details the organization’s findings and is widely praised as one of the nation’s leading resources on the this topic. Click here to read Human Rights First’s fact sheet on this case. To speak to a Human Rights First expert on federal terrorism prosecutions and for additional comments on the Abdulmutallab case, contact Brenda Bowser Soder at 202-370-3323 or [email protected].


Published on February 16, 2012


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