Fugitive brother of Manchester Arena bomber is convicted in his absence of failing to appear at public inquiry into 2017 terror attack after fleeing UK before hearing

  • Ismail Abedi had refused to cooperate with inquiry into attack, which killed 22
  • 28-year-old was ordered to attend court to give evidence but failed to appear
  • Warrant for arrest will be issued if he fails to attend another hearing on August 2 

The elder brother of the Manchester Arena bomber was today convicted in his absence of failing to give evidence at the public inquiry into the attack after fleeing the UK.

Ismail Abedi, whose whereabouts are currently unknown, had refused to cooperate with the inquiry into the attack, which killed 22 people at an Ariana Grande concert in 2017. 

The 28-year-old 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 managed to depart on an aeroplane the following day. 

Ismail was ordered by the chairman, Sir John Saunders, to attend to give evidence and his case was listed for trial at Manchester Magistrates’ Court today under another name he has used, Ishmale Ben Romdhan. 

But he did not attend and was subsequently found guilty by District Judge Jack McGarva of failing without reasonable excuse to do something required by a Section 21 notice.

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. As a statutory inquiry, witnesses can be compelled to appear to give evidence on pain of punishment.  

Ismail Abedi, 28, whose whereabouts are currently unknown, had refused to cooperate with the public inquiry but was ordered by the chairman, Sir John Saunders, to attend to give evidence 

The Abedis, from left to right: Salman, the bomber; Hashem, who was convicted of 22 murders and jailed for at least 55 years for helping to plan the atrocity; and Ismail, who is missing 

‘The court is bound to consider passing a custodial sentence,’ the judge said. 

‘There is a very high level of public interest in ensuring people cooperate 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 cooperate 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 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.

Salman at Victoria Station in Manchester making his way to the Manchester Arena, on May 22, 2017, where he detonated his bomb and killed 22 people

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 cooperated 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.  

The victims were (top row, from left) Elaine McIver, 43, Saffie Roussos, 8, Sorrell Leczkowski, 14, Eilidh MacLeod, 14, (second row, from left) Nell Jones, 14, Olivia Campbell-Hardy, 15, Megan Hurley, 15, Georgina Callander, 18, (third row, from left), Chloe Rutherford, 17, Liam Curry, 19, Courtney Boyle, 19, and Philip Tron, 32, (fourth row, from left) John Atkinson, 26, Martyn Hett, 29, Kelly Brewster, 32, Angelika Klis, 39, (fifth row, from left) Marcin Klis, 42, Michelle Kiss, 45, Alison Howe, 45, and Lisa Lees, 43 (fifth row, from left) Wendy Fawell, 50 and Jane Tweddle, 51 

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