During the hearing, prosecutors played a video tape prepared by the FBI laboratory showing the potential explosive force of Abdulmutallab’s device. During the demonstration, Abdulmutallab twice called out: “Allahu akbar,” which is Arabic for God is great.
The sentence is similar to the punishment given to admitted shoe bomber Richard Reid, who received three life sentences for his attempt in 2001 to detonate explosives in his shoes during a transatlantic flight to the US. That bomb also did not detonate.
Federal prosecutors had argued that Abdulmutallab represented a continuing threat to US citizens and was likely to attempt another suicide attack should the opportunity present itself. They said he should receive the maximum sentence – life in prison.
A court-appointed defense lawyer, Anthony Chambers of Detroit, said in court filings that life in prison was an excessive punishment given that no one but Adbulmutallab was injured during his failed bombing attempt. Mr. Chambers said sentencing Abdulmutallab to life in prison would violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
Judge Edmunds rejected the argument.
In a statement, Attorney General Eric Holder praised the outcome of the case. He and other Obama administration officials had been criticized by Republicans for not turning Abdulmutallab over to the military for harsh interrogation.
The attorney general defended the FBI’s actions. “Today’s sentence once again underscores the effectiveness of the criminal justice system in both incapacitating terrorists and gathering valuable intelligence from them,” he said.