Families demand answers from Greater Manchester Police after Ismail Abedi ‘laughs in face’ of inquiry
Police deliberately allowed the Manchester Arena bomber’s brother to leave the country before giving evidence at the public inquiry into the attack, it has emerged.
Ismail Abedi had been served a legal notice in July ordering him to appear for questioning at a hearing on Thursday.
Police stopped Mr Abedi at Manchester Airport under terror laws 上 28 八月, but he told them he was planning to return in time to give evidence.
Officers let him leave the following day because they believed they had no legal powers to prevent him boarding his flight, the inquiry was told.
During a hearing on Thursday, when Mr Abedi had been due to appear, bereaved families voiced their anger and frustration.
Paul Greaney QC, counsel to the inquiry, said it had received a “self-serving and frankly quite disgraceful statement” making clear that Mr Abedi would not appear before the inquiry or answer its questions.
“A situation where this important witness has been allowed to flee and effectively laugh in the face of the inquiry is one which should never be permitted to occur again,“ 他加了.
Mr Greaney said that Greater Manchester Police believed they did not have the power to stop Mr Abedi leaving, and that although the inquiry could have applied to the High Court for an emergency order if warned of his intentions in advance, there was no guarantee it would have been granted.
He said it was not clear whether “something had gone wrong” or the legal powers available were not adequate.
Sir John Saunders, chair of the inquiry, said he was seeking detailed information from Greater Manchester Police on what happened.
“I think that no one should rush to judgement,“ 他加了. “Let’s find out what happened and reach conclusions when we know.”
Mr Greaney said Greater Manchester Police were alerted after a legal notice was served on Mr Abedi compelling him to give evidence on 21 十月.
In August, an inquiry solicitor emailed the force asking to be alerted “as soon as possible if there is any information to suggest that Ismail Abedi may not comply with the notice, for example by leaving the jurisdiction”.
“Nothing more was possible to do at that stage, that simply is the law,” Mr Greaney told the hearing.
He said that on 28 八月, police stopped Mr Abedi at Manchester Airport under Schedule 7 under the Terrorism Act and interviewed him, causing him to miss his flight.
The following day, he returned to the airport, caught a flight and has not returned to the UK.
The hearing was not told what Mr Abedi’s destination was, but relatives including his parents and younger siblings currently reside in Libya.
Mr Greaney said that the inquiry’s legal team was not informed of his attempt to leave on 28 August or departure on the 29th until days later.
“It follows that the inquiry had no prior warning of Mr Abedi’s plan to depart and no opportunity to seek to use provisions of [the Inquiries Act] to prevent him from doing so,“ 他加了.
Mr Greaney said the inquiry’s chair would have done “all he could to prevent Mr Abedi’s departure from the UK had he known of his plans”.
Sir John previously used the act to obtain a High Court order preventing another witness, Ahmed Taghdi, from leaving the country after he said he would not give evidence.
He was arrested while trying to leave the UK on Monday and brought from custody to give evidence on Thursday.
Mr Greaney said that the High Court may not have granted an order in Mr Abedi’s case, as he departed two months before he was due to appear before the inquiry and claimed he would return.
The barrister said his ability to leave was “the subject of intense public concern and anger among the bereaved families”.
A group of 11 families said Mr Abedi had “taken the coward’s way out” and that his absence “speaks volumes”.
In a statement read on their behalf outside Manchester Magistrates’ Court by a member of their legal team, they added: “We are appalled to learn that Ismail Abedi left the country in August, having been stopped at the airport once before.
“We want to put on record our horror that Ismail Abedi could be allowed to leave the country in the face of an upcoming appearance at a statutory inquiry, which he had been ordered to attend.
“We are shocked that this can have been allowed to happen and we note the inquiry are seeking urgent clarification on this.”
Duncan Atkinson QC, representing another group of victims’ families, said they had “grave concerns and an extreme sense of frustration”.
He said Mr Abedi’s actions showed “profound disrespect to the families” and added: “We encourage all enquiries to be made as to how this happened.”
He is the older brother of Salman Abedi, who detonated a suicide bomb at the end of an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena on 22 可能 2017.
His younger brother Hashem Abedi was later found to have been deeply involved in the plot and preparations.
He was handed a life sentence for murder last year, after prosecutors said he was “just as responsible” for the deaths of the victims as his suicide bomber brother.
Their mother and father are among people the public inquiry has said it wanted to question, but have refused to provide any statements or evidence.