LONDON: A judge has issued a warrant for the arrest of the older brother of the Manchester Arena bomber after he refused to testify in the bombing inquiry before fleeing the country, Sky News reported.
The judge said that 28-year-old Ismail Abedi was made aware of the hearing and given the opportunity to attend.
IT worker Abedi left his home in Manchester last August and is believed to be in Libya with his parents and three younger siblings.
On Tuesday, Manchester Magistrates Court conducted a final search to ensure he was not present.
In May 2017, Salman Abedi blew himself up at the arena, killing 22 men, women, and children. His younger brother Hashem, 24, who was extradited from Libya, is serving life in prison for helping him make the bomb.
The inquiry wanted to question Ismail because his DNA was discovered on a hammer in a car that his two younger brothers used to transport and store the explosive they had made.
The families of the victims also wanted to question him about his brothers’ radicalization, especially since extremist propaganda was discovered on Ismail’s phone when he returned from his honeymoon 20 months before the bombing.
Police arrested Abedi the day after the attack and questioned him for 14 days before releasing him without charge.
He had moved out of the family home by the time of the attack, and he told police that he had called his parents and asked them to return the brothers to Libya because he was concerned they had dropped out of school.
On Aug. 28, 2021, he was subject to a schedule seven stop under the Terrorism Act 2000 at Manchester Airport but told police he would return to the country in mid-September.
He missed his flight but returned the next day to Manchester Airport and left the country.
Ismail was found guilty of refusing to comply with a section 21 notice under the Inquiries Act 2005 in his absence at a hearing last month.
Prosecutor Sophie Cartwright QC said a notice of Tuesday’s hearing was sent to him at his last known address, informing him that he had been found guilty of an offense under section 35 of the Inquiries Act in his absence.
“He was separately emailed notice of today’s hearing,” she said. “We would submit there is adequate notice of this hearing, and we would submit that he has not attended today. As a result, we would submit that this is an offense which carries imprisonment and you do have the power to issue a warrant.”
Judge Jack McGarva told the hearing: “Not only has he been emailed, but there has been a great deal of publicity. I am sure he will have followed what has happened in this court.
“I would have issued the warrant at the last hearing, but the Magistrates Court Act did not allow me to do this. I am now allowed to issue a warrant and do so under section 13 of the act.”
The judge said there was an interest in ensuring that others in similar situations attended and fulfilled their obligations and that a warrant would allow Interpol to post a “wanted” notice.
“If he crosses any of the countries we cooperate with, he will make his way (here),” the judge added.
Nick de la Poer QC told the hearing that Abedi had “thrown up every obstacle he could think of, and when those failed he fled the jurisdiction.”
The families asked if Ismail would ever be apprehended and accused him of “truly despicable contempt.”
“Whilst we welcome the conviction of Ismail Abedi today we remain sorely disappointed that the conviction had to take place in his absence,” said solicitor Kim Harrison, who represents 11 of the victims.
“We remain gravely concerned as to how Abedi was able to leave the country before giving evidence to the inquiry in the first place. His leaving the country should never have happened and despite the conviction, he is unlikely to face any real justice until he is apprehended, if at all.
“The families deserve to know the truth about what happened that night, and the contempt Ismail Abedi has shown them is truly despicable.”