LONDON (Reuters) - A 25-year old Ukrainian man appeared in court on Tuesday, charged under terrorism laws with the murder of a British Muslim in Birmingham and with planting explosive devices at three mosques.
Pavlo Lapshyn, a post-graduate student, was arrested last Thursday following blasts at the mosques in separate towns in central England.
He was also charged with the terrorism-related murder of 82-year old grandfather Mohammed Saleem, who was stabbed to death in April as he walked home after prayers at a mosque, in what police called a “swift, vicious attack”.
The murder prompted an outpouring of support for the local Muslim community and came in the wake of an increase in Islamophobic attacks against individuals and institutions following the killing of soldier Lee Rigby in May.
Rigby’s murder in Woolwich was labeled a betrayal of Islam by Prime Minister David Cameron, heightened community tensions. Two men will stand trial in November.
One of the mosque blasts, a suspected nail bomb at a building in Tipton, took place just hours after Rigby’s funeral on a Friday, earlier this month, the traditional day of Muslim prayers.
The charges accuse Lapshyn of modifying mobile phones to act as detonators for explosive devices, searching online to identify locations to plant them and with visiting an area in the West Midlands to identify where explosives should be placed.
No one was hurt during the explosions at mosques in Tipton, Walsall and Wolverhampton, all near Birmingham.
Home to a large Muslim population, Britain’s second city has seen heightened community tensions in recent weeks.
Around 1,000 far-right protesters marched there on Saturday, the latest in a series of demonstrations in recent weeks, leading to dozens of arrests.
At Westminster Magistrates’ Court, Lapshyn spoke only to confirm his name, age and to briefly speak with his lawyer. He has yet to enter a plea.
He was remanded in custody and will appear at a bail hearing on Thursday at London’s Old Bailey court.
Reporting By Costas Pitas; editing by Stephen Addison