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Judge allows model of attempted Christmas Day bomb at trial

Booking photograph of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab from the US Marshals Service
Booking photograph of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab from the US Marshals Service

By Ben Klayman

DETROIT (Reuters) - A model of the bomb a Nigerian man is accused of trying to detonate in his underwear to blow up a passenger airline on Christmas day 2009 will be allowed as evidence in trial, a judge ruled on Tuesday.

Judge Nancy Edmunds allowed the bomb model as well as several videos for use in the trial of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, saying they would not prejudice the jury. Abdulmutallab is representing himself in court.

The trial in U.S. District Court in Detroit is scheduled to begin on October 11, the week after jury selection begins.

Abdulmutallab, 24, is charged with trying to detonate the device on a Northwest Airlines flight as it approached Detroit from Amsterdam, a scare that prompted U.S. authorities to quickly ramp up aviation security.

Abdulmutallab previously told U.S. investigators he had received the bomb, which failed to detonate fully, and training from al Qaeda militants in Yemen, U.S. officials have said.

After the attempted attack, President Barack Obama's administration scrambled to strengthen U.S. airline security by deploying full-body scanners to try to detect explosives that could be hidden in a passenger's clothing.

Abdulmutallab had "vehemently" objected to use of the model and videos in motions previously filed with the court, saying the model would inflame jurors.

One video the government plans to use in evidence shows an expert recreating and detonating in an open field the type of bomb Abdulmutallab is charged with using to show the force of such an explosion.

Abdulmutallab argued on Tuesday that the demonstration did not recreate the setting where he is charged with trying to detonate a bomb.

The government also submitted plans to use a video clip showing Abdulmutallab's martyrdom video, as well as a voice over about his plans and former al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden calling Abdulmutallab a hero.

Abdulmutallab argued only a Muslim would understand the videos, in asking they not be allowed as evidence.

"It's not possible for someone who doesn't believe in the Quran to understand what it means and understand what someone is trying to do," he said on Tuesday.

Edmunds ruled the government could use the portions of the video with Abdulmutallab and the voice over, but barred the section with bin Laden saying it would possibly prejudice the jury and was not needed.

Edmunds also ruled she would allow testimony by the government's experts on al Qaeda and martyrdom.

(Editing by Greg McCune)

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