Manchester Arena bomber’s brother appears in London court
Hashem Abedi stood in court as the names of the victims of the ISIS attack were read aloud
The brother of the Manchester Arena suicide bomber has appeared in court in London over murder charges following a clandestine extradition from Libya where he had been held for two years.
Hashem Abedi, brother to Salman Abedi who killed 22 people and injured hundreds in an ISIS-inspired bomb attack at a concert in Manchester, stood in the dock at Westminster Magistrates Court on Thursday flanked by police officers and three security guards.
In a moment that was poignant and tense, Mr Abedi was confronted with the scale of the carnage caused by his brother’s deadly attack as the names of each of those killed in the bomb blast, many of them children, were read aloud to the court.
A packed public gallery looked on as the charges of 22 counts of murder, attempted murder and conspiracy to cause an explosion likely to endanger life were put to him.
During the hearing, which lasted no more than 15 minutes, the 22-year-old appeared in a grey, prison-issued tracksuit. He spoke only to confirm his name, age and nationality.
Abedi’s barrister Zafar Ali QC said his client denied the charges against him, though no formal pleas were entered during the hearing. Mr Ali said his client did not contest the extradition because he would seek to clear his name. British police have said they believe Mr Abedi helped his brother to buy the materials used to make the explosive device used in the attack.
The suspect will appear on 30 July for a preliminary hearing at the Old Bailey in London following a bail hearing at Oxford Crown Court on Monday. Until that time he will be held under remand in custody.
Mr Abedi arrived in Britain on Wednesday morning at the culmination of two years of fraught negotiations for his extradition. The BBC reported the Briton’s journey from his parent’s home country of Libya had not gone without incident.
The jet, chartered from Malta to spirit Abedi back to the United Kingdom, reportedly had to turn back before landing in Libya because of technical problems. The suspect’s extraction and journey from the embattled north African nation to an airport south of London was monitored by a British foreign office cell.
While unrest in Libya had consistently impeded progress in Mr Abedi’s extradition to the United Kingdom his departure from the capital Tripoli comes as the city faces some of the worst violence seen there since the country’s 2011 revolution.
Crucially, the UN-backed government in Tripoli and the forces holding Abedi have acquiesced to his extradition as they face an existential military threat from eastern strongman Khalifa Hafter. The United Nations said earlier this month that more than 1,000 people had been killed in Tripoli since the former Qaddafi commander launched his offensive to wrest control of the city in April this year.
Further details have emerged of Abedi’s time held in Libya. The brother of the Manchester Arena bomber was arrested in the aftermath of the suicide attack by Tripoli’s Special Deterrent Forces, known locally as Rada, and held by them in a prison near Tripoli airport ever since.
Mr Ali said Abedi had been tortured while detained by the group aligned with the Tripoli government, kept in solitary confinement and forced to sign a 40-page confession under extreme duress.
A Tripoli source that has monitored the activities of Rada told The National that accusations of Mr Abedi’s torture had not been widely known. However, if proven true, the claims would not strike them as entirely unusual. In a 2018 report by the United Nations, the deterrent force was named as one group involved in “appalling abuses” against civilians in detention including torture.
Prior to the attack Salman and Hashem Abedi had lived with their father, a Qaddafi era-dissident. The family fled Libya for Manchester during former leader’s 40-year-rule but returned during the Nato-backed intervention that toppled him in 2011.
As negotiaitons over Mr Abedi’s extradition dragged on, inquests into the killings in Manchester have been consistently postponed to the distress of the families of the victims. A pre-inquest review hearing is due to take place in Manchester on 29 July.
Updated: July 18, 2019 04:30 PM