LONDON » A prime suspect in the slaying last week of a British soldier sat handcuffed in court today, given permission not to stand up before a judge because of wounds suffered when he was gunned down 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 military barracks in southeast London. The other, 28-year-old Michael Adebolajo, remains hospitalized and has not been charged. He is likely to be charged once he has recovered sufficiently to be released from hospital.
The daylight 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.
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 prime suspects were shot by police who arrived on the scene roughly 14 minutes after the soldier’s death. 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.
Britain’s Home Office, charged with managing Britain’s borders and internal security, confirmed today that the Greenwich area, which includes the attack site in Woolwich, was deemed in a 2011 governmental 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 that area were approved in that time frame. 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.
Kenyan police have said they believed Adebolajo, a British citizen, had earlier 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.
British officials said the two main suspects had been known to them for some time as part of previous investigations. The attack has raised questions about whether Britain’s intelligence services could have done more to prevent Rigby’s killing.