Woolwich accused 'soldier of Allah'

Banbury Cake: Court sketch of Michael Adebolajo as he gave evidence at the Old Bailey. Court sketch of Michael Adebolajo as he gave evidence at the Old Bailey.

One of the men accused of murdering Lee Rigby has told a jury he loves al Qaida and does not regret what happened to the soldier.

Michael Adebolajo gave evidence at the Old Bailey today, surrounded by five security guards in oak-pannelled Court Two.

He and Michael Adebowale, 22, are accused of murdering Fusilier Rigby by running him 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.

The soldier's relatives sat feet away as Adebolajo, a married father-of-six, spoke to the court.

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

He told the jury the 25-year-old had moved, and was "maybe semi-conscious, but he did not sit up or stand up".

Asked who al Qaida were by his counsel, David Gottlieb, Adebolajo replied: "Al Qaida, I consider to be Mujahideen. I love them, they're my brothers. I have never met them. I consider them my brothers in Islam."

The 28-year-old, whose front teeth are missing, told the jury that he does not regret what happened to Fusilier Rigby.

He said: "I will never regret obeying the command of Allah. That is all I can say. I'm a mujahid, I'm a soldier, I'm doing what Allah commands me to do. I can't do anything else."

But when he was asked how he feels towards the soldier's family, he told the court: "I have no animosity or bad feelings towards them.

"Every soldier has a family, has a family who loves him just like me," he said. "My family didn't stop loving me the moment I became a soldier."

Adebolajo, dressed in a black Islamic tunic, went on: "That soldier's life, his death might protect the lives of other soldiers who are being sent to die in unjust wars."

When asked what his defence to the charge of murder is, Adebolajo insisted that he is a soldier.

"I'm a soldier. I'm a soldier of Allah and I understand that some people might not recognise this because we do not wear fatigues and we do not go to the Brecon Beacons and train and this sort of thing. But we are still soldiers in the sight of Allah as a mujahid," the jury heard.

Asked what should happen to him after this case, he said he should be ransomed back to other jihadi fighters, set free or killed if he is found guilty.

The jury of eight women and four men heard that he took the name Mujahid, meaning fighter, after he converted to Islam in 2002 or 2003.

"When a soldier joins the Army he perhaps has in his head an understanding that he will kill a man at some stage. When I became a mujahid I was aware that perhaps I might end up killing a soldier."

In 2010 he tried to travel to Somalia but was captured in Kenya and brought back to the UK.

He told the jury that he and Adebowale prayed to Allah that they would attack a soldier and not a civilian.

"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."

The court heard that he used to attend demonstrations "in the hope it might make a difference", but added: " I was somewhat naive."

"In reality, no demonstration will make a difference," he added.

Adebolajo said that, while he was not a member of any group, the demonstrations were organised by al Muhajiroun, a group proscribed under the UK Terrorism Act.

He also discussed the group's co-founder Anjem Choudary and said he thought he was a "good man" but he disagreed with some of his views.

He said he handed a letter to an eyewitness to make it clear that the events happened "for one reason and one reason only - that's foreign policy".

Adebolajo said he asked people at the scene at Woolwich Barracks to film him to "make it clear to everybody why the soldier lost his life" and "how this can be avoided in the future".

He told the jury he converted to Islam in his first year at Greenwich University, but was raised as a Christian by his parents.

The court heard that Adebolajo is married and has six children, including a seven-year-old boy and a baby born shortly before the incident.

He said that, growing up in Romford, the ''vast majority'' of his friends were white British, and one, Kirk Redpath, joined the Army and was later killed in Iraq.

Adebolajo said: ''I hold Tony Blair responsible for his death.''

In cross-examination by prosecutor Richard Whittam QC, Adebolajo admitted that he and Adebowale had killed Fusilier Rigby. He described the killing as a "military operation".

"Just as a general plans attacks knowing full well that when he plans this attack people will die, this is what happens in war, so when we target a soldier this is a similar thing. It's not a casual joke. It's a military operation. This is how we see it."

As well as murder, Adebolajo and Adebowale are both accused of attempted murder of a police officer and conspiracy to murder a police officer, which they deny.

The trial was adjourned until tomorrow.

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