A Muslim extremist jailed for life for murdering soldier Lee Rigby is looked up to by fellow prisoners and has “converted some to Islam”, a high court judge has been told.
Michael Adebolajo was “charismatic”, and intelligence suggested that he had helped convert other inmates to Islam, Mr Justice Langstaff heard.
Detail of the influence Adebolajo wielded in jail has emerged after he took legal action against the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).
Adebolajo claims that he was injured by prison officers during an incident in a cell and wants compensation.
Langstaff oversaw a preliminary hearing in the case at the high court in London on Tuesday. He said any trial was some distance off and made an order barring prison officers involved from being identified in media reports.
Fusilier Rigby, 25, died after being attacked near Woolwich Barracks in south-east London in May 2013.
Adebolajo, who is in his early 30s, and Michael Adebowale, who is in his mid-20s, were convicted of murder following a trial at the Old Bailey. Adebolajo was given a whole-life jail term and Adebowale was sentenced to life with a minimum term of 45 years.
Jurors heard that they mowed down Rigby in a car before hacking him to death.
Langstaff said Adebolajo, who was not at Tuesday’s hearing, had complained about an incident in a cell while on remand in July 2013.
Lawyers representing the MoJ said prison officers likely to give evidence at any trial could be in danger if their names emerged in media reports.
They gave the judge detail of the influence Adebolajo had in prison. “He forms relationships easily,” said the judge.
“He is charismatic. There is intelligence suggesting that he has had some influence on the conversion to Islam of some individuals.
“There is a large group of people who look up to Adebolajo.”
Langstaff said the incident at the centre of Adebolajo’s claim had occurred while he was awaiting trial. Five prison officers had been escorting Adebolajo. Physical force had been used to restrain him. He had been held by the head and an arm and had lost two front teeth.
The judge said the use of physical force by prison officers had to be justified.
MoJ lawyers told the judge that prison officers were “deeply unhappy” about being involved in legal proceedings.
The hearing continues.