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Ismail Abedi

The elder brother of the Manchester Arena suicide bomber has been convicted of failing to appear at a public inquiry he was ordered to attend.

Ismail Abedi, 29, refused to answer questions from the inquiry in case he incriminated himself.

The chairman, Sir John Saunders, had rejected his position and demanded he appear as a witness.

Last year Abedi fled the UK and has not returned. He now uses the name Ben Romdhan.

Twenty-two people were killed and hundreds injured when Salman Abedi detonated a bomb at the end of an Ariana Grande concert on 22 May 2017.

Younger brother Hashem Abedi was jailed two years ago after being convicted of murdering all those who died.

At Manchester Magistrates’ Court, District Judge Jack McGarva convicted Ismail Abedi of failing to comply with a legal notice to attend the Manchester Arena inquiry as a witness.

He said “I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt he has no reasonable excuse for not attending” and “he is guilty of the offence as charged”.

Top row (left to right): Alison Howe, Martyn Hett, Lisa Lees, Courtney Boyle, Eilidh MacLeod, Elaine McIver, Georgina Callander, Jane Tweddle - Middle row (left to right): John Atkinson, Kelly Brewster, Liam Curry, Chloe Rutherford, Marcin Klis, Angelika Klis, Megan Hurley, Michelle Kiss - Bottom row (left to right): Nell Jones, Olivia Campbell-Hardy, Philip Tron, Saffie-Rose Roussos, Sorrell Leczkowski, Wendy Fawell

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Mr McGarva said he could not issue an arrest warrant on Thursday and adjourned the hearing until 2 August.

The district judge said that, if Ismail Abedi fails to attend in August, an arrest warrant could be issued and he would then be “posted as wanted” by international policing bodies.

“I think we know what’s likely to happen,” he said.

‘Truly despicable’

Nicholas de lar Poer QC, prosecuting, earlier said that “his failure to attend was deliberate”.

He said: “The defendant from the first was determined not to cooperate with the Inquiry. He has prevaricated and he has obfuscated.

“He has thrown up every obstacle he could think of. When those failed, he fled the jurisdiction.”

Mr de la Poer added: “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.”

Speaking after the conviction, a lawyer who represents 11 of the victims’ families said Abedi was “unlikely to face any real justice until he is apprehended, if at all”.

Kim Harrison added: “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.

“The families deserve to know the truth about what happened that night and the contempt Ismail Abedi has shown them is truly despicable”

Salman Abedi seconds before blast

GMP

In May 2020 Abedi was asked to provide a witness statement and 39 topic areas were identified.

In July that year he responded in writing saying he would not provide a witness statement “because I am concerned about the risk of self-incrimination”.

He was told that failure to comply was a criminal offence, to which he replied: “I do not wish to answer the questions”.

He asserted he wished to claim privilege against self-incrimination.

It was pointed out by the inquiry that such privilege could only ever be claimed on a question by question basis, not in blanket form.

He then asked for immunity from prosecution from the Attorney General before he would agree to give evidence, but the inquiry chairman refused the application.

A formal notice was then issued requiring the defendant to attend the inquiry on 21 October 2021.

On 28 August 2021 Ismail Abedi was questioned by police under counter terror laws at Manchester Airport while trying to leave the country. He indicated he would come back in September and was released.

He returned to the airport the following day and was able to fly out of the UK and has not returned since.

Police had not informed the inquiry of Ismail Abedi’s movements, despite knowing he was formally required as a witness.

Mr de la Poer said: “As a person who lived with Salman Abedi during the period running up to the attack, and as his older brother, the defendant was uniquely well placed to provide an insight into understanding how Salman Abedi came to be radicalised.”

The inquiry previously heard Ismail Abedi’s DNA was found on an item in a car used by Salman and Hashem Abedi to store explosives and he was in possession of extremist material.

The BBC found him in Manchester in October 2020, where he still lived at the time, and challenged him on why he was refusing to help the inquiry.

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