The man accused of stabbing to death the Conservative MP Sir David Amess has pleaded not guilty to his murder and planning a terrorist attack for more than two years.
Ali Harbi Ali, 25, appeared before the Old Bailey in central London on Tuesday for a pre-trial hearing.
Amess, 69, was stabbed on 15 October while holding a constituency surgery at Belfairs Methodist church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex.
He was pronounced dead at the scene after an incident that sent shock waves through Westminster and led to a tightening of security for MPs.
Ali also pleaded not guilty to preparing terrorist acts, according to an indictment, which alleges he carried out reconnaissance of addresses linked to MPs, the Houses of Parliament, and researched the internet for attack targets over the period from May 2019.
The charge of “engaging in conduct in preparation of terrorist acts” alleges that: “Ali Harbi Ali between the first day of May 2019 and the 28th day of September 2021, with the intention of committing acts of terrorism, engaged in conduct in preparation for giving effect to that intention, the said conduct included:
“a) Engaging in reconnaissance of locations of targets to attack, including addresses associated with members of parliament and the Houses of Parliament, and …
“b) Engaging in internet research relating to targets to attack.”
Ali from Kentish town, north London, spoke only to confirm his identity and to say “not guilty” to both charges, when they were formally put to him by a court official.
The trial judge, Mr Justice Sweeney, agreed that the trial date could be put back a fortnight, and it was set for 21 March 2022.
Ali was remanded in custody.
Amess was the MP for Southend West and had been a parliamentarian for 38 years.
He died barely an hour after the stabbing shortly after midday, as he held an advice surgery for those from his Southend West constituency.
Amess was stabbed 17 times and died in the church. He was so badly injured paramedics could not even get him to hospital.
After his death, Amess’s family paid tribute and said: “We are enormously proud of him. Our hearts are shattered. However, there was still so much David wanted to do – this we know from the events of the last few days.”
They also called for less rancour and more unity in society as they praised the veteran Conservative backbencher. They said: “Strong and courageous is an appropriate way to describe David. He was a patriot and a man of peace. So, we ask people to set aside their differences and show kindness and love to all. This is the only way forward. Set aside hatred and work towards togetherness.
“Whatever one’s race, religious or political beliefs, be tolerant and try to understand. As a family, we are trying to understand why this awful thing has occurred. Nobody should die in that way. Nobody.
“Please let some good come from this tragedy. We are absolutely broken, but we will survive and carry on for the sake of a wonderful and inspiring man.”