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British soldier killers to be sentenced

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IOL pic dec6 lee rigby funeral file

Reuters

Soldiers carry Lee Rigby's coffin to the Parish Church in Bury, northern England. File photo: Nigel Roddis

London - Two Muslim extremists convicted of hacking British soldier Lee Rigby to death on a London street are due to be sentenced on Wednesday and face life in prison.

Michael Adebolajo, 29, and Michael Adebowale, 22, were found guilty in December of ploughing into Rigby with a car before attacking him with knives in broad daylight outside his barracks in May last year.

The sentencing had been delayed because the judge wanted clarification on a European ruling that made it uncertain whether whole-life jail terms could still be imposed.

England's Court of Appeal upheld the right to impose the punishment on February 18.

Judge Nigel Sweeney is set to pass sentence at London's Old Bailey at around 14.00 GMT.

Adebolajo and Adebowale said they had attacked the off-duty 25-year-old fusilier to avenge the deaths of Muslims at the hands of British troops.

Adebolajo tried to behead Rigby with a meat cleaver in front of horrified passers-by.

The pair were shot and wounded by armed police at the murder scene in Woolwich, south-east London, after Adebolajo charged at them waving the cleaver, while Adebowale raised a rusty, unloaded gun.

The killers, both Britons who were raised by Nigerian Christian families before converting to the Muslim faith, claimed they were “soldiers of Islam” and therefore justified in their actions.

A jury found them guilty within hours on December 19 and Sweeney said he was considering whole-life terms.

But the European Court of Human Rights last year condemned whole-life terms as a violation of prisoners' rights, causing the Court of Appeal to launch a review.

The Rigby murder stunned Britain and sparked a rise in community tensions, with several mosques attacked by arsonists. British Muslim leaders deplored the killing.

The brutal daylight attack also raised questions for British intelligence agencies as Adebolajo was known to the security services, having been arrested in Kenya in 2010 and deported. AFP


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