UK soldier murder accused ‘eyed martyrdom’

Two men accused of hacking a British soldier to death in a London street wanted to achieve martyrdom, a court has heard as their trial neared a conclusion.


Michael Adebolajo, 29, and Michael Adebowale, 22, are accused of running over soldier Lee Rigby in a car, then attacking him with a meat cleaver and knives in broad daylight.

They are accused of murdering Rigby, and the attempted murder of a police officer, in Woolwich, southeast London, on May 22.

Judge Nigel Sweeney told jurors sitting at the Old Bailey court in London that they will likely retire to consider their verdicts on Thursday.

Adebowale’s lawyer Abbas Lakha said although his client did not give evidence, he and Adebolajo killed Rigby “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”.

He said they wanted armed police to kill them.

“That is what both defendants intended – that they would be shot and therefore would achieve martyrdom,” said Lakha.

The only reason the defendants brought a gun – an unloaded, 90-year-old weapon that was not in working condition – was to ensure armed officers came to the scene, he said.

“His (Adebowale’s) actions from beginning to end speak for themselves – it was martyrdom he was after,” Lakha added.

The prosecution summed up its case on Tuesday, saying killing to make a political point was still murder.

“Islam, one of the world’s great religions, is not on trial,” said prosecutor Richard Whittam.

Judge Sweeney told the jury that Adebolajo’s testimony that he was a “soldier of Allah” and therefore justified in his actions did not amount to a defence in law to murder.

Adebolajo’s lawyer David Gottlieb suggested on Tuesday his client was “the most law-abiding terrorist in the history of this country”, recalling that he had paid for a parking ticket moments before Rigby was killed.