Two men due in UK court ahead of soldier murder trial

LONDON - Two men accused of the brutal murder of a British soldier in broad daylight on a London street were due to appear in court on Monday before going on trial.

Michael Adebolajo, 28, and Michael Adebowale, 22, are charged with murdering Lee Rigby as he walked back to Woolwich barracks in southeast London on May 22.

Both defendants, who are of Nigerian descent, have asked in previous court hearings to be known by Muslim names.

Rigby, 25, died of multiple cut and stab wounds.

His death sparked community tensions and led to demonstrations from right-wing groups and arson attacks on mosques.

Adebolajo - who has said he wants to be known in court as Mujaahid Abu Hamza - is also accused of the attempted murder of two police officers and possessing a revolver.

Adebowale, who is listed as Ismail Ibn Abdullah in court documents, is also charged with firearms possession.

They are scheduled to face a three-week trial, which will take place under tight security.

The leader of the far-right British National Party (BNP), Nick Griffin, joined around 30 protesters outside the Old Bailey on Monday.

The demonstrators, many of them former soldiers wearing their medals, waved placards with the slogan "Veterans against the Islamification of the UK".

The court hearing is not scheduled to start until 1400 GMT, and the day is expected to be taken up with legal argument.

Under English law, stringent reporting conditions surround the case until the evidence is heard in court.

Monitoring groups say they recorded a sharp spike in verbal and sometimes physical attacks on Muslims following the murder.

Prime Minister David Cameron joined thousands of mourners at Rigby's funeral in Bury, near Manchester in northwest England, on July 12.

The soldier, a drummer in 2nd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, had served a tour of duty in Afghanistan before taking up a post in army recruitment.

He had been returning from a recruitment event at the Tower of London when he was killed.

The street outside the barracks where he was based was carpeted with flowers from wellwishers following his death.

The trial is due to take place as the Old Bailey also hosts a high-profile phone-hacking trial involving senior former staff of the Rupert Murdoch-owned News of the World tabloid.

Officials said it was unusual to have two such prominent trials taking place at the same court at the same time.