Trial to begin over British soldier’s murder

November 18, 2013 6:08 am
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Armed police stand guard outside Westminster Magistrates court in London following the arrival of a police van carrying Michael Adebolajo/AFP
Armed police stand guard outside Westminster Magistrates court in London following the arrival of a police van carrying Michael Adebolajo/AFP
LONDON, Nov 18 – The trial of two British Muslim converts charged with murdering a soldier in broad daylight on a London street was to get under way formally on Monday.

Michael Adebolajo, 28, and Michael Adebowale, 22, both Britons of Nigerian descent, deny murdering Lee Rigby, who was hacked to death near his barracks in Woolwich, southeast London, on May 22.

The death triggered demonstrations from right-wing groups and attempted firebombings of mosques.

Adebolajo – who has said he wants to be known in court as Mujaahid Abu Hamza -is also accused of the attempted murder of two police officers and possessing a revolver.

Adebowale, who is listed as Ismail Ibn Abdullah in court documents, is also charged with firearms possession.

The three-week trial will take place at England’s Old Bailey central criminal court in London under tight security, amid fears of a repeat of tensions seen in the days and weeks following the murder.

The first evidence in the case is not expected to be heard before Tuesday, after a 12-strong jury is selected from members of the public.

Armed police attended the scene of the bloody attack and onlookers filmed the incident and its aftermath on their mobile phones.

Under English law, stringent reporting conditions surround the case until the evidence is heard in court.

Monitoring groups say they recorded a sharp spike in verbal and sometimes physical attacks on Muslims following the Woolwich murder.

A group claiming to be opposed to the “Islamification of the UK” is planning a demonstration outside the court on Monday.

Prime Minister David Cameron joined thousands of mourners at 25-year-old Rigby’s funeral in Bury, near Manchester in northwest England, on July 12.

The soldier, a drummer in 2nd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, had served a tour of duty in Afghanistan before taking up a post in army recruitment.

The street outside the Woolwich barracks where he was based was carpeted with flowers from wellwishers.

The family of Adebolajo claim he has been abused in custody. They say he was pushed against a wall while being restrained in the high-security Belmarsh prison in London.

Five prison staff were suspended over the alleged incident in which Adebolajo reportedly lost two teeth.

The Old Bailey is also hosting the unrelated phone-hacking trial involving senior former staff of the Rupert Murdoch-owned News of the World tabloid.

Court officials said it was unusual to have two such high-profile trials taking place there at the same time.

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