Drummer Lee Rigby
Drummer Lee RigbyReuters

One of the two Muslims who publicly beheaded British soldier Lee Rigby in London last year was given life in prison and his accomplice was sentenced to 45 years on Wednesday, AFP reports.

Michael Adebolajo, 29, and Michael Adebowale, 22, were dragged from the dock in the Old Bailey court in London after they started screaming "Allahu akbar" at the judge during the sentencing, the report said.

The two Muslim converts were found guilty in December of running into Rigby with a car before attacking him with knives in broad daylight outside his barracks in Woolwich, southeast London, in May 2013.

Judge Nigel Sweeney ordered Adebolajo to spend the rest of his life behind bars without the possibility of parole for killing Rigby, who had previously served in Afghanistan, and said Adebowale had to serve a minimum of 45 years.

"This was a murder with a terrorist connection," the judge said, describing the killing as "sickening and pitiless," according to AFP.

He said a whole-life prison term was a "just penalty" for Adebolajo, who had proclaimed his admiration for the Al-Qaeda terror group, but that the younger man's "lesser role" meant he would get a shorter sentence.

Adebolajo and Adebowale, both Britons who were raised by Nigerian Christian families before converting to Islam, said they had attacked the off-duty soldier to avenge the deaths of Muslims at the hands of British troops.

The sentencing had been delayed for several weeks because the judge wanted clarification on a European ruling that made it uncertain whether life sentences could still be imposed.

England's Court of Appeal upheld the right to do so on February 18.

The murder sparked outrage in London, with riots and protests around the city, a backlash that reportedly included attacks on two mosques.

Adebolajo was arrested in Kenya in 2010 over terrorism charges and deported to Britain, despite having been apparently preparing to fight in the ranks of the Somali group Al-Shabab. Britain therefore knew that Adebolajo was possibly dangerous, but took him in nonetheless, and apparently set him free.