One of the men accused of hacking to death a British soldier in London attended court for the first time on Monday, while his co-accused appeared in a separate hearing via videolink from prison.
Michael Adebolajo had a bandaged left hand and held up a Koran as he appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court charged with murdering soldier Lee Rigby on May 22.
The 28-year-old, who asked to be referred to as Mujaahid Abu Hamza, has also been charged with the attempted murder of two police officers and possession of a firearm.
He and the other suspect, Michael Adebowale, 22, were shot by police at the scene of the brutal daylight attack near an army barracks in Woolwich, southeast London.
Both men are Muslim converts of Nigerian descent, and the murder is being investigated by counter-terrorism officers.
The men appeared in court as Prime Minister David Cameron chaired a new taskforce on tackling Islamic extremism, but also warned far-right groups against using the murder to demonise Islam.
Adebolajo spent nine days in hospital before being discharged on Friday, and counter-terrorism police charged him over the weekend.
Wearing a white T-shirt and white trousers, he blew a kiss to a man in the public gallery of the court, and they both pointed to the sky.
Asked to stand at the end of the short hearing, Adebolajo said: “May I ask why? May I ask why?” When told it is customary to stand, he said: “I want to sit.”
Standing, he asked Deputy Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot: “May I respond to you? You would prefer me not to speak to you. I am only a man. I would like to alleviate the pain if I may?”
He then kissed the Koran and raised his arm into the air.
Adebolajo, from Romford in Essex, east of London, was remanded in custody to appear at the Old Bailey central criminal court in London within 48 hours.
The other main suspect in the case, Adebowale, later appeared at the Old Bailey via videolink. No application was made for bail during the brief hearing, and a new court date was set for June 28.
Adebowale, from Greenwich in southeast London, spent six days in hospital before being discharged last Tuesday. He first appeared in court on Thursday charged with murder and possession of a firearm.
An inquest into Rigby’s death heard that he was run over by a car before being attacked by two men armed with a cleaver and a knife, on a quiet suburban street in the middle of the afternoon.
Legal restrictions prohibit the reporting of further details of the case.
The new taskforce, comprising cabinet ministers, will meet monthly to look at how extremist views can be confronted in schools, universities, prisons and local communities, Cameron’s office said.
“It is as if for some young people there is a conveyor belt to radicalisation that has poisoned their minds with sick and perverted ideas. We need to dismantle this process at every stage,” the prime minister told the House of Commons.
But Cameron warned against those who tried to use the murder to divide Britain’s communities, after far-right groups the British National Party (BNP) and the English Defence League (EDL) held anti-Muslim rallies in Rigby’s name.
“Just as we will not stand for those who pervert Islam to preach extremism, neither will we stand for groups like the English Defence League who try to demonise Islam and stoke up anti-Muslim hatred by bringing disorder and violence to our towns and cities,” he said.
Cameron also said that parliament’s intelligence and security committee had been given extra powers to investigate Britain’s spy agencies and try to understand whether the attackers could have been stopped.