Brusthom Ziamani wanted to 'fit in' with extremist group

Court sketch of Brusthom Ziamani Image copyright PA
Image caption Brusthom Ziamani is 'not on trial for the murder of Lee Rigby' his defence lawyer told jurors

A teenager accused of planning to behead a British soldier expressed extremist views only to "fit in" with a Muslim group, he has told a court.

Brusthom Ziamani said he fell in with members of al-Muhajiroun - an extremist organisation - after he was "kicked out" of home for converting to Islam.

He told jurors he did not disagree with the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby but would not commit such an act himself.

The 19-year-old, of Camberwell, London, denies preparing an act of terrorism.

Mr Ziamani was arrested on a street in east London in August last year carrying a 12in (30cm) knife, a hammer and a black flag in a rucksack, the Old Bailey heard.

He had earlier researched the location of Army cadet bases.

Jurors were also told that he had shown his ex-girlfriend weapons, described one of Fusilier Rigby's killers - Michael Adebolajo - as a "legend", and told her he would "kill soldiers".

Extreme meetings

On Thursday, Mr Ziamani told the jury that members of al-Muhajiroun - or ALM - gave him money, clothes and a place to stay after his parents, who are Jehovah's Witnesses, threw him out of the family home when he converted to Islam in early 2014.

"I didn't know anything about them apart from what I saw on TV, that they would go out and give demonstrations to people and cause havoc," he said.

"They were really warm to me... I learned a lot from them."

They invited him to an ALM meeting in the basement of a halal sweet shop in Whitechapel, where the group discussed Gaza, Palestine and Sharia law, he said.

Afterwards, he posted on Facebook: "Sharia law on its way on our streets. We will implement it, it's part of our religion."

Asked why he did that, he said: "I did not believe it. I put it up to fit in with these people. I wanted to show these people I believed what they believed - without them I would be on the streets."

When he was arrested in June last year on an unrelated matter, police found a ripped up letter in his trouser pocket.

In it, he had written about mounting an attack on a British soldier and expressed the desire to die a martyr, the court heard.

But he told jurors: "I was ranting and raging about the situation in Muslim countries which was described in these talks.

"I did not believe it at all. I was ranting out of anger."

'Repulsive views'

Defence lawyer Naeem Mian told jurors: "It's not illegal to be offensive.

"In fact only recently we saw heads of state in Paris marching to defend the right to be offensive in the wake of that atrocity that happened there.

"We have the right to be offensive.

"We all have the right to have an interest in gore and grisly stuff. We have the right to have undoubtedly repulsive views, some of which he has expressed."

The lawyer added: "He is not on trial for the murder of Lee Rigby. He is not on trial for his opinions, as repulsive as you may find them."

The court was told the defendant had been brought up in south London and went to school in Peckham.

His parents had come to the UK from the Republic of Congo.

He told jurors that he used to be involved in stealing people's credit cards and went to a "play house" to have sex with prostitutes.

He also said he had been drawn to become a Muslim after listening to rap music but concealed his conversion from his parents and would tuck his Islamic robe into his trousers when he went home.

The defendant told the court that his parents had found out he was a Muslim only when they had seen pictures of friends in Islamic clothes on his mobile phone.

The trial continues.

Related Topics

More on this story