LONDON — The man accused of murdering UK lawmaker David Amess in a church last year said in court on Thursday that he was motivated by a grievance against lawmakers who voted to bomb Syria.
Ali Harbi Ali, 26, is accused of stabbing Amess more than 20 times with a foot-long carving knife in Leigh-on-Sea, southeast England, in October 2021.
The university drop-out told London’s Old Bailey court that he “decided to do it because I felt that if I could kill someone who made decisions to kill Muslims, it could prevent further harm to those Muslims.”
Frustrated that he could not get out to Syria and fight himself, Ali told jurors: “I decided if I couldn’t… help the Muslims [in Syria], I would do something here.”
He targeted Amess because he had voted in favor of airstrikes against Islamic State jihadists in Syria in 2015.
Asked what he hoped the killing would achieve, Ali said: “For one, he can’t vote again… and perhaps send a message to his colleagues.”
Ali’s other targets included cabinet minister Michael Gove, according to a note found on his phone.
“That was plans I had to attack and hopefully kill Michael Gove at the time.”
“I believe he was someone who was a harm to Muslims,” he added.
Ali, from north London, arranged an appointment with Amess, 69, by telling the politician’s office that he was a healthcare worker and wished to talk about local issues.
Amess, a father of five, was a long-serving member of parliament for Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s ruling Conservative party.
Prosecutor Tom Little earlier told the court that Ali had been determined to carry out a terror attack “for a number of years,” and had bought the knife allegedly used to kill the lawmaker in 2016.
Ali was spotted outside other MPs’ constituency offices while mobile phone data placed him near parliament seven times between July and September 2021, Little has noted.
The killing of Amess, the second of a British MP within five years, shocked the country and led to calls for better security for elected representatives.
In 2016, a right-wing extremist who shouted “Britain first” shot and stabbed Labour lawmaker Jo Cox to death in the febrile run-up to the Brexit referendum.
A post-mortem examination showed Amess suffered 21 stab wounds to his face, arms, legs, and torso, as well as injuries to both hands that were consistent with defending himself, the court heard.
Amess was first elected to parliament in 1983, initially representing Basildon in Essex, then nearby Southend West.
Hundreds of locals turned out in the seaside town to pay their respects after his death. Pope Francis praised the Catholic lawmaker’s “devoted public service” in a special message read out at his November funeral.