The two men who killed and mutilated British soldier Lee Rigby on 22 May 2013 in a south London street were sentenced to life imprisonment at the Old Bailey on Tuesday.
A jury had unanimously convicted Michael Adebolajo, 29, and his accomplice Michael Adebowale, 22, in December for the brutal murder of the soldier.
Mr. Adebolajo, the principal perpetrator of the brutal killing, was given a whole life term, and his accomplice Mr. Adebowale was given a minimum sentence of 45 years. Rebecca Rigby, the wife of Lee Rigby, and other members of his family were present at the sentencing.
Mr. Rigby was run over by a car driven by his killers and repeatedly slashed with a cleaver. His body was so mutilated that it had to be identified by dental records.
The two men disrupted the sentence read out by Mr. Justice Sweeney, who branded them traitors to their religion for the “sickening and pitiless” action they had committed. Mr Sweeney said that what they did was “a betrayal of Islam and of the peaceful Muslim communities who give so much to our country.”
Mr. Adebowale shouted “That is a lie”, and “You know nothing about Islam” to Judge Sweeney. The prisoner had in his defence claimed that he was a soldier of Allah and had been commanded by God to carry out the killing. “I swear by Allah that America will not be safe,” he shouted in the court before he was dragged out by security men.
As Mr. Adebolajo joined in, shouting “Allahu Akbar”, he was grappled to the ground by security guards and carried out to his cells.
The sentence falls under the category of what in India would be called rarest of rare. The United Kingdom has long abolished the death sentence, and this sentence in effect means that the two terrorists will never be released.
Judge Sweeney told Rigby’s killers that Mr Adebolajo, the older of the two, and the principal kiler deserved the whole life term, as there was no hope for his rehabilitation. Mr. Adebowale, given his age, secondary role and mental condition would have to spend half a century in prison before any consideration could be given for his release.
This was the second Al-Qaida inspired attack in the UK after the July 2005 bombings of the public transport system in which 52 persons died, and the first in which the perpetrators were brought before a law court for sentencing.
Mr. Rigby’s family welcomed the verdict.