‘Islam not on trial’ in UK soldier murder

Jurors in the case of two men accused of murdering British soldier Lee Rigby have been told “Islam, one of the world’s great religions, is not on trial”.

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Muslim converts Michael Adebolajo, 29, and Michael Adebowale, 22, are accused of running Fusilier Rigby down with a car and then hacking him to death with a meat cleaver and knives near Woolwich barracks in south east London on May 22.

Prosecutor Richard Whittam QC told the jury at the Old Bailey what the men did was “indefensible in the law of this country”.

The panel of eight women and four men had already heard that nothing said by Adebolajo in his evidence amounts in law to a defence to the charge of murder.

In his closing speech, Whittam said: “It’s important that I make it clear – Islam, one of the world’s great religions, is not on trial, nor could it be.”

Recounting the prosecution’s case, Whittam showed the jury once again images of bloodied knives, and also replayed the video clip in which Fusilier Rigby is seen being hit by a Vauxhall Tigra.

“What these two men did, crashing their car and breaking the back of Lee Rigby and then killing him is indefensible in the law of this country,” he said.

“Killing to make a political point, to frighten the public, to put pressure on the government or as an expression of anger is murder and remains murder whether the government in question is a good one, a bad one or a dreadful one.”

David Gottlieb, for Adebolajo, told the jury that religion had been a “red herring” in the case.

“Do you think really that this is the cruellest, most sadistic, most callous, most cowardly killing that’s ever occurred in our nation’s history? It isn’t.”

Gottlieb went on to say that the issue of what motivated Adebolajo “raises awkward questions” for the UK’s political leaders.

“All I’m asking on behalf of my client is that you try this case according to the same standards that you would for anybody else,” he said.