LONDON (AP) — A prime suspect in the vicious slaying of a British soldier sat handcuffed in court Thursday, given permission not to stand up before a judge because of wounds sustained when he was shot by police.
Michael Adebowale, 22, confirmed his name, address and date of birth as the investigation into the shocking killing entered its courtroom phase.
He is one of two men suspected of attacking Lee Rigby near a military barracks in southeast London. The other suspect, 28-year-old Michael Adebolajo, remains hospitalized and has not been charged. He is likely to be charged once he has recovered enough to be released from hospital.
The attack on Rigby by two men wielding knives and meat cleavers has aggravated tensions in Britain, especially since Adebolajo — carrying bloody weapons — invited onlookers to film him after the killing as he ranted about the British government’s presence in Muslim lands. There has been a surge in anti-Muslim protests and attacks on mosques since the killing, and far-right groups have mobilized.
London police on Thursday barred a planned march by the far-right British National Party from the scene of the attack to a nearby Islamic center because of the threat of “serious disorder.” Police said Saturday’s demonstration would be held in central London instead.
The al-Qaida-linked magazine Inspire, meanwhile, expressed support for the soldier’s slaying. In a recently released issue, the magazine said it and other “lone-wolf” attacks were a response to Western “governments’ invasion of Muslim lands, occupations, aggression and oppression.”
Security was extremely tight for Adebowale’s first court appearance. He is scheduled to be back in court Monday for another hearing and remains in custody.
Adebowale was charged late Wednesday night, two days after he was released from hospital. He was also charged with threatening people with a revolver, police said.
Autopsy results made public Wednesday indicated that Rigby, 25, was first struck by a car and then attacked. He died of multiple stab wounds, the report said.
Both suspects were shot by police who arrived on the scene minutes after the attack on the soldier. Video showed two suspects rushing a police car that arrived on the scene, then being shot by police and given first aid on the ground.
British authorities are facing questions about their failure to stop Rigby’s killing, since the two suspects were on authorities’ radar from previous counter-terrorism investigations.
Kenyan police have said they believed Adebolajo, a British citizen, had associated with a radical Kenyan Muslim cleric who tried to help him join an al-Qaida-linked rebel group in neighboring Somalia.
Adebolajo was arrested with five other young men in November 2010 near the Kenya-Somalia border and eventually returned to Britain, police in Kenya said.
A Kenyan lawyer said Thursday that British diplomats had recommended that Adebolajo be freed.
Wycliffe Makasembo who represented Adebolajo when he was arrested in Kenya on Nov. 21, 2010, said a letter from the British High Commission in Nairobi recommended that he be released since there was no tangible evidence to link him to a crime.
Makasembo said he saw the letter in court, although a reporter could not find it in court records this week.
Britain’s Home Office, charged with managing Britain’s borders and internal security, confirmed Thursday that the Greenwich area of south London, which includes the attack site in Woolwich, was deemed in a 2011 government review to be at a low risk of extremist activity and so did not receive anti-terror funding under a government program called Prevent.
This designation was reversed a year later, meaning anti-terror projects there could again be funded, but no proposals for the area were approved. Before 2011, the funding was used to bring young people into contact with Muslim soldiers and other veterans. Other funded programs encouraged sports, art and discussion programs.
The Prevent plan, part of a broader anti-terror strategy run by the Home Office, depends in part on the belief that “radicalization and recruitment can be identified and then provided with support” that keeps vulnerable individuals from embracing militant viewpoints, its website states.
The goal is to intervene and halt the radicalization process before a crime is committed.
Associated Press Writer Tom Odula in Nairobi, Kenya contributed to this report.