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Europe

Trial begins over killing of soldier in London street

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-11-18

The trial of two British Muslim converts of Nigerian descent accused of slaughtering a soldier in a London street is due to start on Monday amid fears it could trigger renewed racial tensions in Britain.

The trial of two British Muslim converts charged with hacking a soldier to death in broad daylight on a London street is due to begin formally on Monday.

Michael Adebolajo, 28, and Michael Adebowale, 22, both Britons of Nigerian descent, deny murdering Lee Rigby, who was killed near his barracks in Woolwich, southeast London, on May 22. A post-mortem examination gave the cause of death as "multiple incised wounds".

Onlookers filmed the incident and its aftermath on their mobile phones and the death triggered demonstrations from right-wing groups and attempted fire-bombings of mosques. British Prime Minister David Cameron described the killing as a betrayal of Islam and an attack on the British way of life.

The three-week trial will take place at England's Old Bailey central criminal court in London under tight security, amid fears of more public unrest.

The accused face charges of murdering Rigby, conspiracy to murder a police officer and the attempted murder of a police officer.

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 first evidence in the case is not expected to be heard before Tuesday, with Monday to be taken up by legal argument and the selection of a jury of 12 from members of the public.

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" plans to demonstrate outside the court on Monday.

Prime Minister David Cameron and London mayor Boris Johnson joined thousands of mourners, including veterans in uniform, at Rigby's funeral on July 12 in Bury, near Manchester in northwest England.

The 25-year-old soldier was a drummer in the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers and had served a tour of duty in Afghanistan before taking up a post in army recruitment.

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.

(France 24 with Reuters and AFP)

Date created : 2013-11-18

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