Manchester bomber’s brother convicted in absence of failing to appear at inquiry
The elder brother of the Manchester Arena bomber has been convicted in his absence of failing to give evidence at the public inquiry into the attack.
Ismail Abedi, 28, whose whereabouts are currently unknown, had refused to co-operate with the inquiry but was ordered by the chairman, Sir John Saunders, to attend to give evidence.
He was listed for trial at Manchester Magistrates’ Court on Thursday under another name he has used, Ishmale Ben Romdhan, but did not attend.
He was found guilty by District Judge Jack McGarva of failing without reasonable excuse to do something required by a Section 21 notice.
He has prevaricated, he has obfuscated, he has thrown up every obstacle he could think of. When those failed, he fled the jurisdiction
Prosecuting barrister Nicholas de la Poer QC
The judge adjourned the case to August 2 and said if Abedi does not attend that hearing a warrant will be issued for his arrest.
He said: “The court is bound to consider passing a custodial sentence.
“There is a very high level of public interest in ensuring people co-operate with public inquiries.”
He said Abedi could have given evidence on “some really key points that the families of the deceased would have really appreciated having answers to”.
Nicholas de la Poer QC, prosecuting, said: “The prosecution submits that you can be sure from the chronology that the defendant from the first was determined not to co-operate with the inquiry.
“He has prevaricated, he has obfuscated, he has thrown up every obstacle he could think of.
“When those failed, he fled the jurisdiction.
“In the end it comes down to this: he was lawfully required to attend, he did not attend and there is no good reason for him not attending.”
The court heard that Abedi had previously said he did not want to answer the inquiry’s questions because he was concerned about risk of self-incrimination, had already been questioned by police, and was concerned for the safety of himself and his family.
But District Judge McGarva found he had no reasonable excuse not to attend.
The court heard that Abedi was stopped by police at Manchester Airport on August 28 last year and told them he was planning to return to the country the following month.
He left the country the following day and is not believed to have returned.
Kim Harrison, principal lawyer at Slater and Gordon, which represented 11 of the victims’ families, said: “Whilst we welcome the conviction of Ismail Abedi today, we remain sorely disappointed that the conviction had to take place in his absence.
“We remain gravely concerned as to how Abedi was able to leave the country before giving evidence to the inquiry in the first place.
“His leaving the country should never have happened and, despite the conviction, he is unlikely to face any real justice until he is apprehended, if at all.
“The families deserve to know the truth about what happened that night, and the contempt Ismail Abedi has shown them is truly despicable”
The IT worker was described as a key witness for the inquiry, able to answer questions about the radicalisation of his younger brothers, Salman, who carried out the suicide attack which killed 22 people on May 22 2017, and Hashem, who has been jailed for his part in the bomb plot.
He also had potential evidence to give, the inquiry heard, on the preparation of the bomb, given his DNA was found on a hammer in a car used to store the explosives.
He had already been stopped in 2015 at Heathrow Airport and his phone was found to have a “significant” amount of “very disturbing” material described as of an “Islamic State-mindset” on it.
Bereaved families labelled Ismail Abedi a “coward” for refusing to answer questions.
His father, Ramadan Abedi, was associated with the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a militia that had links with terror organisation al Qaida, the public inquiry heard.
He lives in Libya, has also not co-operated with the inquiry, and police want to question him as a suspect.
Hashem Abedi, 24, was jailed for life for the 22 murders at the Arena by assisting with the bomb plot.