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'Islam not on trial' in Rigby case


Fusilier Lee Rigby, who was murdered in the street in Woolwich, south east London.

Fusilier Lee Rigby, who was murdered in the street in Woolwich, south east London.

Fusilier Lee Rigby, who was murdered in the street in Woolwich, south east London.

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

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.

They were also discharged from any further consideration of a count of conspiracy to murder a police officer. Both men deny remaining counts of murder and attempted murder of a police officer.

In his closing speech, Mr 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 events of May 22 and the prosecution's case, Mr 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 was the consequence of driving into Lee Rigby?" he asked. "The consequence was it broke his back."

He went on: "What was the purpose of what they have done, killing Lee Rigby in the way they had done, in putting the body there and staying at the scene?

"To borrow a phrase from the first defendant - carnage."

Mr Whittam turned to the charge of attempted murder of a police officer and described the defendants' actions when police arrived at the scene.

He told the jury not to be "seduced by suggestions that the sole objective was to commit suicide".

Describing Adebolajo's movements, the prosecutor said: "He had a meat cleaver, a weapon that needed to have direct contact. He raised the weapon above his head and got very close to the vehicle."

Describing Adebowale's movements, he said: "Did he run straight at the vehicle to be caught? He ran along the wall. Why? To draw fire."

Finishing his speech, Mr Whittam said: "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 went on: "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, quoted from a poem by First World War poet Edmund Blunden, called Report On Experience, and told the jury that religion had been a "red herring" in the case.

He went on: "All deaths outside of lawful deaths are cruel, needless and unnecessary.

"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."

Mr Gottlieb suggested that rather than murder, the proper charge for Adebolajo would have been "treason, terrorism, or maybe manslaughter" - but later corrected himself by telling the jury that this has no legal basis as a defence.

The defending barrister also suggested that Adebolajo was "the most law-abiding terrorist in the history of this country" as his client paid for a parking ticket moments before the alleged murder took place.

Mr Gottlieb told the jury that they "genuinely have a choice" to acquit his client, and that they will be under pressure "from outside, from the mob, from the world, to convict".

Turning to the attempted murder charge, he said it is "possibly the most ridiculous charge ever put before a judge and jury in the history of this country".

Mr Gottlieb told the jury that there were unarmed police near the scene, but Adebolajo chose to wait for armed teams, which would not fit with an intention to kill an officer.

He had also underlined passages about martyrdom in documents found by police.

The barrister went on to tell the panel of eight women and four men that the issue of what motivated Adebolajo "raises awkward questions" for the UK's political leaders.

He said: "A person, a human being, can do the most evil act in the world and not actually be evil themselves."

The barrister went on: "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."

The trial was adjourned to tomorrow.