A senior judge has issued an arrest warrant for the older brother of Manchester Arena suicide bomber Salman Abedi.
Ismail Abedi, 28, fled the country before testifying in the ongoing public inquiry into the atrocities in May 2017, in which 22 people were murdered and hundreds of others were injured as they left an Ariana Grande concert.
The chairman of the inquiry, Sir John Saunders, successfully applied to a Supreme Court judge for an arrest warrant for his arrest.
This means that Ismail Abedi will be arrested and brought to the investigation if he returns – and a criminal case will be brought against him if he fails to return before the investigation is completed.
Salman Abedi’s younger brother Hashem Abedi is serving at least 55 years behind bars to help his siblings prepare for the bombing and the attack.
Paul Greaney QC submitted the application to Mr. Justice Sweeney at the High Court in Manchester this morning.
QC outlined the attack in May 2017, saying, “The motivation for the attack is clear. That motivation is violent extremism in terms of adherence to the ideology of the Islamic State.”
Ismail Abedi, the lawyer said, ‘is the older brother of two killers’ and has evidence ‘of a high degree of relevance’ to provide.
He added: “The respondent undoubtedly has relevant evidence to provide for how Salman Abedi and his younger brother came to be radicalized.”
QC noted that Abedis’ father Ramadan had been revealed as evidence in the investigation yesterday for being a member of ‘an Islamist fighting militia’, the Martyrs Brigade on 17 February.
Ramadan was also revealed to have links to the Al Qaeda-linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), Mr Greaney said, adding that there were questions to Ismail Abedi about whether his father’s violent Islamist extremism … spread to his sons’.
Ismail Abedi, the court was told, were friends with the imprisoned convicted terrorist Abdalraouf Abdallah, who at the investigation yesterday testified about Salman Abedi’s changed attitudes in 2015 and 2016, where he left drug use and parties and became more religious.
Ismail Abedi was ‘ended up stopped’ by the counter-terrorism police in August 2015, and analysis of his phone revealed material suggesting an ‘Islamic State mindset’, the court was told.
The device also contained images of Salman Abedi with weapons in Libya, QC said.
Sir. Greaney said the inquiry would ask Ismail Abedi if he played any role in the radicalization of Salman Abedi and if he received any training in Libya.
Ismail Abedi also had ‘evidence to give on the preparation of the bombing, given his DNA was found on a hammer in a vehicle in which the explosives were stored’.
The court was told that Ismail Abedi was served with a notice ordering him to testify for the investigation on 21 October, but that on 28 August he was ‘stopped in port’ at Manchester Airport, where he told officers that he only had to leave the country for three weeks.
He was released and managed to get on a plane to Istanbul the next day. It is believed that his family has followed suit.
Sir. Greaney said the inquiry was only informed of his departure on August 31, and so the president had ‘no opportunity’ to intervene.
The day before he was to testify, Ismail Abedi’s lawyer sent an email to the investigating lawyer to confirm that he was ‘unwilling to participate’ as it risked harming himself and his family, QC said.
The flight out of the country had been a “quite deliberate” breach of the requirement to testify, he said.
He called on the court to issue an arrest warrant for Ismail Abedi if he returns so he can be brought to the investigation, adding that if he had not returned before the end of the investigation next year, it was the Crown Prosecutor’s intention. Service to initiate criminal proceedings against Ismail Abedi.
Abedi’s lawyer Rebecca Filletti argued that the ruling “was not necessary or proportionate given the evidence that had to be given”.
She pointed out that her client was abroad and therefore any order could not be executed.
Manchester courts are some of the busiest in the country with a wide range of cases being processed each week.
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Ms Filletti pointed out that her client had been interviewed by the police and had not been charged with any criminal acts, and “calls for caution” with the alleged forensic evidence against him.
But Mr Justice Sweeney granted the application, which was officially brought against Ismail Abedi’s alias Ben Romdhan.
The judge said he would publish his reasons next week.