The two were found not guilty of attempted murder of a police officer, in a verdict that took about 90 minutes to come at the Old Bailey court in London.
Adebolajo, 29, and Adebowale, 22, had pleaded not guilty to both charges. The two men are expected to be sentenced in January.
Adebolajo faced the media and kissed his Quran as he was led out of court after the verdict.
Rigby’s family and widow, who were in court to hear much of the harrowing evidence, cried after the verdicts were read.
A family statement given outside court said that Rigby would be “sorely missed … by all of those who loved him.”
The family said they were happy justice had been done — but no justice would ever bring Rigby back.
“These people have taken Lee away from us, but his memory lives on in all of us,” it said.
This had been the toughest time in their lives, the statement said, but the family was proud of how Rigby served his country.
The family will now focus on the future of his young son, Jack, the statement added. It thanked everyone for the “overwhelming support” they had been given.
Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick, of London’s Metropolitan Police, welcomed the verdict via Twitter. “Pleased justice has been done. Thoughts with Lee’s family and all those who knew and loved him,” she said.
The two men were cleared of the attempted murder of a police officer.
The prosecution had argued that when they ran toward the police vehicle which responded after Rigby’s murder — with Adebolajo holding a knife and Adebowale a gun — they intended to kill a police officer.
However, the defense argued that the two men wanted to be killed by the police. The gun was not loaded.
Rigby was killed in the full view of horrified onlookers in southeast London’s Woolwich neighborhood.
A number of protesters gathered outside the Old Bailey criminal court in London Thursday, demanding capital punishment for the two defendants. Britain does not have the death penalty.
Summing up the case Thursday morning, Judge Nigel Sweeney reminded jurors of what happened in the 13 minutes between Lee Rigby’s body being dragged into the middle of the road and the arrival of police.
The judge quoted from statements made by witnesses who watched as the two men lingered at the scene.
One described the defendants as “posing” and said they “seemed very proud of what they had in their hands.” Another said: “They looked pleased with what they had done.”
Other statements quoted by the judge recounted how Adebolajo spoke to bystanders, telling them “women and children are safe but keep back when the police and soldiers get here.” They recalled him saying “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” and talking about “Muslim lands.”
The judge also referred to the statements made by the armed police who shot and disabled the defendants when they arrived at the scene.
One described how a female officer who was driving the police vehicle feared she was going to die when Adebolajo ran at the car and then again when Adebowale aimed a gun at her.
The judge also cited details of Adebolajo’s police interview and witness testimony, including that he didn’t know al Qaeda but he loved them, and that he had tried to cut off Rigby’s head because it was the proper method under Allah.
Defense lawyers finished their closing arguments on Wednesday.
Lawyer David Gottlieb referred to his client Adebolajo by his adopted Islamic name, Mujahid Abu Hamza, describing him as intelligent, totally sincere in his beliefs and as someone who has shown “absolute honesty and moral conviction.”
While Adebolajo took to the stand earlier this month, Adebowale did not give evidence during the trial.
Adebowale’s lawyer, Abbas Lakha, also referring to his client by his adopted Islamic name, Ismael Abdullah, asked jury members to set aside their prejudice and emotion in the case.
He echoed Adebolajo’s testimony regarding their intent. When he was asked earlier this month what his defense to the charge of murder was, Adebolajo said: “I am a soldier. I am a soldier of Allah.”
Both defense lawyers argued that was not the same as intent to murder.
Adebolajo had told the court he killed the soldier because he was fighting a war.
The killing of Rigby near the Woolwich Barracks in southeast London on May 22 shocked the nation. He left behind a widow and a young son.