`Underwear bomber` trial jurors granted anonymity

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is accused of trying to blow up a packed transatlantic airliner.

Last Updated: Sep 10, 2011, 12:10 PM IST

Chicago: The US judge overseeing the upcoming trial of a Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a packed transatlantic airliner laid out strict rules on Friday to protect the identities of jurors.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 24, was arrested after the botched Christmas Day 2009 plot attributed to al Qaeda, in which explosives allegedly stitched into his underwear failed to detonate aboard a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam as it prepared to land in Detroit.

Passengers and crew were able to restrain Abdulmutallab and put out the small fire aboard the flight, which was carrying 279 passengers and 11 crew.

The foiled bombing triggered global alarm, leading the United States to adopt stringent new screening and security measures at airports worldwide.

Judge Nancy Edmunds cited "intense media and public interest" in laying out rules governing conduct of observers at the trial. Any violations could lead to contempt of court or obstruction of justice charges, she said.

Some 250 prospective jurors are set to fill out questionnaires on Wednesday ahead of jury selection on October 04, with opening statements expected one week later.

Edmunds banned any contact with prospective jurors and the 16 people ultimately chosen to hear the case and laid out safeguards to protect their anonymity.

Jury questionnaires will remain under seal, sketch artists and court observers are banned from depicting the facial features or hair of jurors, nor can anyone take pictures or video of the jurors near the courthouse.

Edmunds also prohibited court observers to do anything that would "influence or intimidate" jurors, including wearing clothing or buttons that "carry any message or symbol addressing any issues related to this case”.

Cameras, recording devices, cell phones and other electronic devices will be banned from the entire courthouse.

Credentialed members of the media will be allowed to bring laptops into an overflow courtroom which will contain a live video and audio feed of the proceedings.

Violations of the ban on recording devices could result in the closing of the media room altogether and news organisations will lose all access to court credentials if any employees violate the restrictions.

Onlookers are expected to arrive early and remain seated until the court goes into recess.

No "conversations or disruptive gestures are permitted" and only court staff and legal counsel will be allowed entry once proceedings begin.

Bureau Report