LONDON (AP) — An Islamic State supporter was given a whole-life sentence Wednesday for stabbing a British lawmaker to death in revenge for his voting in support for airstrikes on Syria.
Ali Harbi Ali, 26, was convicted Monday of murdering Conservative lawmaker David Amess and preparing terrorist acts. A jury deliberated for just 18 minutes before finding him guilty.
“The defendant has no remorse or shame for what he has done — quite the reverse,” Justice Nigel Sweeney told the court. “This is a murder that struck at the heart of democracy.”
Ali stabbed Amess with a carving knife multiple times on Oct.15 while he was meeting with voters at a church hall in the town of Leigh-on-Sea in eastern England. Ali, a London man with Somali heritage, said he targeted Amess because he backed voting for airstrikes on Syria in 2014 and 2015.
The whole-life sentence means Ali will never be eligible for parole, and will likely spend the rest of his days in prison.
Amess’s family said “there is no elation” following the sentencing and described the crime as “beyond evil.”
“We will wake each day and immediately feel our loss. We will struggle through each day for the rest of our lives,” the family said in a statement. “It breaks our heart to know that our husband and father would have greeted the murderer with a smile of friendship and would have been anxious to help.”
Prosecutors described Ali as a committed, fanatical terrorist and said he spent years plotting an attack on British politicians. Counter-terrorism officers at the Metropolitan Police said they had evidence that he carried out reconnaissance around the Parliament building in London weeks before the murder.
During the trial, Ali told the court he took action in the U.K. to help Muslims in Syria because he couldn’t travel to join the Islamic State group. He also said he did not think he did anything wrong.
He added he had expected to be shot and die at the scene, but decided to drop his knife after seeing that the first police to arrive were not armed with guns.
Amess, 69, had been a member of Parliament since 1983. He was pronounced dead at the scene after the stabbing.
The slaying of Amess shook the nation and prompted questions about security protection for lawmakers because they often meet directly with the public. It came five years after Labour Party lawmaker Jo Cox was shot and stabbed to death by a far-right extremist.