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'Underwear bomber' sues over prison treatment

© US MARSHALS SERVICE/AFP/File | Abdulmutallab alleged he had been denied contact with family members, placed in solitary confinement, and denied the chance to practice Islam

WASHINGTON (AFP) - 

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian who tried to blow up a US-bound aircraft in 2009 with explosives hidden in his underwear, has sued the US Justice department for alleged mistreatment in prison.

Sentenced to life in a hyper-secure Colorado "Supermax" prison, Abdulmutallab said in a suit filed Wednesday that he had been denied contact with family members, placed in solitary confinement indefinitely, and unconstitutionally denied the opportunity to practice Islam.

He also alleged he was forced to eat non-halal food, and that when he went on a hunger strike to protest his mistreatment, he was force-fed against his will.

The treatment of Abdulmutallab is "contrary to the evolving standards of decency that are the hallmark of a maturing society," said the suit, filed in federal court in Denver, Colorado.

"These factors together violate the proscription against cruel and unusual punishments in the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution."

Abdulmutallab was sentenced to four life terms in prison in 2012 after pleading guilty to the December 25, 2009 abortive attempt to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight headed for Detroit from Amsterdam.

In the Christmas day attack plotted by Yemen-based Al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula, Abdulmutallab tried to ignite the bomb while the aircraft began its descent to Detroit.

The device malfunctioned, burning his legs and groin but not hurting anyone else or damaging the aircraft.

The suit argues that Abdulmutallab has "behaved well" in the last five years, but continues to be held under the strictest conditions of the US penal system -- solitary confinement with minimum contact. He is one of only 30 of 154,000 prisoners in federal prisons to be subjected to such conditions.

It also said that when he is praying alone, prison wardens allow white supremacist inmates to yell and scream at him -- while guards have forced him to look at pornographic pictures while he is praying.

Faced with "this prolonged, systematic, mental, spiritual, and psychological cruelty," Abdulmutallab went on hunger strike to protest his conditions, the lawsuit said.

His life in the prison, it added, is "a struggle to avoid becoming mentally ill."

© 2017 AFP