Lee Rigby murder: Michael Adebolajo applies to appeal against conviction
A man found guilty of murdering the soldier in a terrorist attack has applied to appeal against his conviction, arguing that the judge made repeated legal blunders which rendered his trial unfair.
Michael Adebolajo was convicted in December of the murder, in which he and Michael Adebowale butchered and attempted to behead Rigby near the Woolwich military barracks in south . His application to appeal was lodged last week, but only became public on Thursday.
The 29-year-old's lawyers will argue his case for appeal on five separate grounds, including that the trial judge refused to let his defence – that he was acting as a soldier – go before the jury.
Having admitted the killing, Adebolajo had wanted to claim he was not guilty of murder because a state of war exists between Britain and Muslims, making his attack a military strike, not a criminal act. In legal argument, Mr Justice Sweeney ruled against letting the claim go before the jury to consider.
Adebolajo's lawyers will argue that the trial judge was wrong not to allow the jury to consider his claim that he was acting as a soldier in a liberation struggle and whose victim was attacked because he was a symbol of an oppressive state. They will say that, even if Adebolajo was wrong in this belief, it was for the jury to decide on its merits, and the judge was wrong in law to rule it could not go before them because it did not amount to a defence based on any legal principles.
The lawyers will also claim the judge was legally wrong not to allow the jury to consider a charge of manslaughter, and that the judge did not correct alleged factual errors in his summing up to the jury.
The case against Adebolajo and Adebowale was one of the most overwhelming brought against criminal defendants in modern legal history, with CCTV and mobile phone footage showing them carrying out key parts of the attack, and with Adebolajo confessing to planning and carrying it out.
The jury took just over 90 minutes to convict the men of the murder, but acquitted them of attempting to murder armed police who raced to the scene. The jury seemingly accepted the men's arguments that they had not intended to harm police but instead ran at police holding knives and a gun, hoping officers would shoot them dead so they would become martyrs.
The men were shot, but only injured, and said their violence was motivated by a hatred of western foreign policy.
Adebolajo and Adebowale face sentences of life imprisonment, with the main issue for the judge being how long a minimum tariff they should serve before they can even be considered for release. Mr Justice Sweeney is considering imposing a sentence that would mean the pair died in prison. He has delayed sentencing until a higher court rules on whether whole-life tariff sentences can be lawfully handed down.
Adebolajo showed no remorse for his actions during the trial, telling jurors that he was a "soldier of Allah" and that he had no choice but to obey the command of Allah. He described how he held the soldier's hair as he hacked at his neck in a motion described by one witness as like a "butcher attacking a joint of meat".
It is not yet known if Adebowale, 22, intends to appeal. He never offered any legal defence to the charges.
In May 2013, both men drove around the Woolwich barracks area hunting for a soldier to kill.
The savagery of the murder, in which Rigby, 25, was repeatedly stabbed and hacked at the neck by a cleaver, shattered community relations when mosques were attacked.
It was the first murderous attack in Britain by those motivated by the al-Qaida ideology of violence since the 7 July 2005 bombings of London's transport system by four suicide bombers.
Adebolajo, assessed by a psychiatrist as sane, was recorded at the scene brandishing a cleaver and a knife in his bloodied hands, and with the body of Rigby lying metres away, saying: "We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you. The only reason we have done this is because Muslims are dying every day. This British soldier is an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth."
In a police interview he said he had picked Rigby because he was the first soldier they saw. He was stabbed with knives including ones bought the day before from Argos. He claimed he targeted the neck because it was the most humane way to kill someone and added: "So I struck at the neck and attempted to remove the head."
No date has been set for the court of appeal to consider whether it will hear Adebolajo's attempt to have his murder conviction over turned.