Ali Harbi Ali, 26, a British citizen and the son of a former media adviser to the Somali prime minister, repeatedly stabbed Amess in an attack last October for what he said was revenge for the lawmaker’s support for airstrikes. In Syria.
Prosecutors said he was a “radicalised, fanatical and committed Islamist terrorist”.
“This was a horrific act of terrorism motivated by religious and ideological beliefs,” said Nick Price, head of the Crown Prosecution Service’s Counter Terrorism Division. “Ali chose to commit this heinous crime for his own selfish and hateful reasons.”
Ali was found guilty of murder and preparation for terrorism at London’s Old Bailey court after the jury took less than half an hour to reach a verdict.
The murder of Amess, 69, a married father of five and a member of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party, shocked Westminster and prompted calls for better security for Members of Parliament (MPs), who arrived just five years ago. years after another legislator was assassinated.
British lawmakers regularly hold “surgeries,” or one-on-one meetings, with voters in their constituencies, a tradition seen as the bedrock of democracy. But with little or no security and an emphasis on access for all, surgeries can leave lawmakers vulnerable.
Ali told detectives he had spent years planning to kill a lawmaker and had previously conducted a reconnaissance of the Houses of Parliament and two other MPs, including cabinet minister Michael Gove.
He told police in interviews that he had “bottled” previous attacks and settled on Amess because he was “the easiest.” He also mentioned the lawmaker’s membership in the Conservative Group of Friends of Israel.
“If I thought I did something wrong, I wouldn’t have done it,” Ali, who described himself as “moderate,” told the court.
Stabbed at a church meeting
On October 15, he made an appointment to meet Amess at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, northeast London, under the guise that he had recently moved to the area.
In their meeting in an office at the back of the church, he tried to strike up a conversation with Amess, before pulling out a 12-inch-long knife and stabbing him 21 times.
“I want him dead. I want all the ministers in Parliament who signed on to bombing Syria, who accepted the Iraq war, dead,” he told a man who was also scheduled to meet Amess.
He was hoping police would shoot him dead at the scene, but he turned himself in after his crying sister begged him to do so while they were on the phone, and when unarmed officers arrived.
Ali, who had no previous convictions, said he wanted to go to Syria to join Islamic State but decided in 2017 that he would instead carry out an attack in Britain.
He said the Covid-19 lockdowns had hampered his plans. He then scouted Gove’s house in London five times, but decided not to attack him after learning that he had separated from his wife and the house had been sold.
He made a reconnaissance at another MP’s constituency surgery and also went to Parliament six times with the intention of attacking MPs, but concluded he was too closely watched.
He then settled on Amess, who was first elected to Parliament in 1983 and later became MP for Southend West. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2015 for his public service.
Ali is due to be sentenced on Wednesday.