Lee Rigby killers handed life sentences

Men who murdered UK soldier and tried to behead him receive life sentences, one with a minimum of 45 years.

Last updated: 27 Feb 2014 00:38
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Two men convicted of murdering the British soldier Lee Rigby in a London street and then boasting on camera have been handed life sentences.

Michael Adebelajo, 29, was handed a full life sentence on Wednesday, while Michael Adebowale, 22, his accomplice, received life with a minimum term of 45 years.

They were not present for their sentencing after being dragged shouting and struggling down to the cells by security guards with whom they had started brawling in the dock as the judge opened his sentencing remarks.

Sentence for murder is mandatory - it must be one of life imprisonment

Judge Nigel Sweeney

"You decided, between you, and in order to advance your extremist cause, to murder a soldier in public in broad daylight and to do so in a way that would generate maximum media coverage," Judge Nigel Sweeney said in sentencing at the Old Bailey.

"Sentence for murder is mandatory - it must be one of life imprisonment," he said.

The defendants were found guilty of Rigby's murder on December 19, but their sentencing was delayed because the judge wanted to wait for clarification about Britain's position on life sentences.

The country's Court of Appeal last week said domestic laws on whole-life prison sentences were compatible with European human rights laws, even though the European Union disagrees.

Adebelajo and Adebowale deliberately hit Rigby with a car, stabbed him multiple times and tried to cut his head off in broad daylight outside an army base in the London suburb of Woolwich last May.

'Fair target'

Jurors on the case watched mobile phone footage of Adebolajo with his hands covered in blood, attributing the attack to "an eye for an eye", in a video taken from the attack in May of 2013.

They also saw a video of Adebolajo's police interview, during which he said, "between us we decided that the soldier is the most fair target because he joins the army with kind of the understanding that your life is at risk when you join the army. So we sat in wait and it just so happened that he was the soldier that we spotted first."

Rigby's family attended the court for Wednesday's sentencing. 

His wife Rebecca Rigby told the court in a written statement that the death of the off-duty soldier, who had served in Afghanistan, Cyprus and Germany, was all the more shocking for having taken place in Britain.

"We both talked about the dangers of Afghanistan and we braced ourselves for it," said Rigby. "You do not expect to see this on the streets of the United Kingdom."

"My son will grow up and see images of his dad that no son should have to endure and there's nothing I can do to change this," she said of their two-year old son.

The sentence was greeted with cheers by a large group of far-right demonstrators who had rigged up a mock gallows outside the court.

The murder had provoked a rise in hate crimes against Muslims in Britain and anti-Islamic street protests.


Al Jazeera and agencies
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