Murder Trial of Lee Rigbys Killers

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A man has admitted killing soldier Lee Rigby but said it was not murder because "I am a soldier of Allah" and "this is a war".

Michael Adebolajo, 28, described the killing as a "military operation".

He also told the Old Bailey he loved extremist network al-Qaeda.

The prosecution says he and Michael Adebowale, 22 - who also denies murder - rammed Fusilier Rigby with a car in Woolwich, south-east London, on 22 May, before attacking him with knives.

They are also both accused of attempting to murder a police officer and conspiracy to murder a police officer.

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Under cross examination by prosecutor Richard Whittam QC, Mr Adebolajo replied "yes" when he was asked if he had killed Fusilier Rigby, describing it as a "military operation".

Fusilier Rigby's widow Rebecca left the courtroom in tears as Mr Adebolajo claimed the soldier was still moving after being hit by the car.

He refused to answer questions about how long he had planned the attack, but said he had not planned to run down Fusilier Rigby, saying "it just so happened that Allah caused him to cross in front of my car."

He described attacking Fusilier Rigby with a meat cleaver in graphic detail, and said the soldier was already dead by the time Mr Adebowale had joined him in attacking the soldier.

Earlier the court heard Mr Adebolajo, from Romford, east London, give his name as Mujaahid Abu Hamza and confirm he was married with six children, including a seven-year-old boy and a baby who was four days old on the day of the incident.

He said he had been brought up as a Christian by his family and his parents had taken him to church every Sunday.

"The memory that sticks in my mind... is probably every New Year's Eve in the evening around 11 o'clock we would gather around in candlelight and read passages from the Bible," he said.

He converted to Islam in his first year as a student at Greenwich University.

He told the court: "My religion is everything.

"When I came to Islam I realised that... real success is not just what you can acquire, but really is if you make it to paradise, because then you can relax," he added.

Of al-Qaeda, Mr Adebolajo said: "Al-Qaeda I consider to be Mujahideen. I love them, they're my brothers. I have never met them. I consider them my brothers in Islam."

Asked what his defence to the murder charge was, Mr Adebolajo said "I am a soldier of Allah"

Last week the jury heard detailed and, at times, graphic detail of the prosecution's version of the events of 22 May, when 25-year-old Fusilier Rigby, of Middleton, Greater Manchester, was killed as he returned to Woolwich Barracks.

In one of the interviews Mr Adebolajo said soldiers were the "most fair target" because they joined the Army "with kind of an understanding that your life is at risk".

In court on Monday he said he had prayed the night before that he would target the right person.

"To be 100%, I don't believe there's a way to know 100% that was a soldier, however there were some steps that we took. For example before we started out on that day and the night previous to that I started worshipping Allah and begging him that... we strike a soldier and a soldier only."

He said he knew Fusilier Rigby was a soldier because of the camouflage backpack he was carrying and because he was going towards the barracks.

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UPDATE: Lee Rigby trial: Adebowale will not give evidence

The jury at the Lee Rigby murder trial has been told one defendant will not give or call any evidence.

The judge said jurors should not draw adverse inferences about 22-year-old Michael Adebowale's decision not to appear in the witness box.

He and Michael Adebolajo, 29 - who both deny murder - killed Fusilier Rigby in Woolwich, London, in May. Mr Adebolajo has said it was a "military operation".

The Old Bailey trial resumes next week with closing speeches.

'Soldier of Allah'

Abbas Lakha QC, for Mr Adebowale, told the court that he was calling no evidence for his client.

Mr Justice Sweeney told the jurors: "The second defendant has chosen neither to give nor to call any evidence.

"May I direct you straight away that you are not to draw any inference adverse to him from the fact that he has chosen not to give evidence. As I told you at the outset, the law is for me and I give directions about it that you must follow."

The judge said that the trial was moving into its final phases with closing speeches, but he had to deal with further legal matters before the jurors would hear them.

The two men are both also accused of attempting to murder a police officer and conspiracy to murder a police officer.

The prosecution says Mr Adebolajo and Mr Adebowale drove a car into Fusilier Rigby at 30-40mph, before dragging him into the road and attacking him with knives and attempting to decapitate him with a meat cleaver.

On Monday, Mr Adebolajo told the court it was not murder because "I am a soldier of Allah" and "this is a war".

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Woolwich trial: men believed they were acting as soldiers of Islam, court hears

Two men accused of hacking to death the soldier Lee Rigby believed they were acting as "soldiers of Islam" in a strike against British foreign policy, the Old Bailey has heard.

Jurors were told on Wednesday that Michael Adebowale agreed with his co-accused, Michael Adebolajo, that they killed the soldier because it was a command from Allah.

Hearing the defence of Adebowale for the first time, jurors were told how the 22-year-old pointed an unloaded pistol at armed police so that he would be shot in a "last-ditch attempt at martyrdom".

Adebowale and Adebolajo, 28, have pleaded not guilty to murdering Rigby and the attempted murder of police officers outside Woolwich military barracks on 22 May.

Abbas Lakha QC, for Adebowale, described the death of 25-year-old Rigby as a "shocking event" that was meant to "shock a nation into waking up to what was happening in Muslim lands".

He told the jury the two accused were acting "as soldiers of Islam – this was a military operation they planned together and their target in that operation was a British soldier, and only a British soldier, no one else".

Adebowale, who chose not to give evidence in his defence, sat alongside Adebolajo in the court dock flanked by seven prison guards as Lakha made his closing speech.

Lakha said: "On behalf of the second defendant [Adebowale], I did not challenge Mr Abu Hamza's [Adebolajo's] evidence.

"What that means is Ismail [Adebowale] agrees with what Mr Abu Hamza said about the reasons for the killing of Lee Rigby and they were acting together in that way and for those reasons. That is his case."

Jurors were shown video footage of the moment Adebolajo and Adebowale charged in the direction of the first marked police car that arrived at the scene.

Adebolajo, holding a butcher's knife and a meat cleaver, charged directly at the armed officers while Adebowale, holding an unloaded 90-year-old pistol, ran alongside a wall a few feet away.

Adebolajo was the first to be shot by officers, sending him spinning to the ground and causing him to drop the knives.

Officers then opened fire on Adebowale as the suspect, still in motion, pointed the pistol in their direction. Adebowale crumpled to the ground after sustaining one gunshot wound. While on the floor he appeared to lift his hand, holding the pistol, in the direction of officers before being shot in the hand.

"He lifts his hand and despite knowing the officers are fully armed and he has one unloaded weapon in his hand he raises it and points it at the police. You know the result of that: the officers shot him again," said Lakha.

"Why would a man do that knowing as he must have that the weapon in his hand could not hurt anyone unless it was a last-ditch attempt at martyrdom?"

Earlier Lakha told jurors they must put aside any emotion or prejudices and try Adebowale only on the evidence they had heard.

"The fact he has not given evidence doesn't mean he says nothing in this trial," he said.

"He uttered the two most important words any man in any court in this land can utter – he said the words 'not guilty'."

The judge, Mr Justice Sweeney, told the jury that they would retire to consider their verdicts on Thursday morning. Sweeney is due to sum up the evidence on Wednesday afternoon.

The trial continues.

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