Manchester Arena bomb plot accused will not give evidence in defence, jury told

Alleged Manchester Arena bombing conspirator Hashem Abedi will not give evidence in his defence, jurors have been told.

Tuesday, 10th March 2020, 5:00 pm

Judge Mr Justice Jeremy Baker told jurors they will hear no further evidence in the trial after prosecutor Duncan Penny QC concluded the prosecution case.

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Abedi - who was not in court for today's hearing, although he was in the building - is accused of plotting with 22-year-old older brother Salman, who died in the suicide bombing as concert-goers left an Ariana Grande gig at Manchester Arena on May 22, 2017.

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Hashem Abedi, the brother of Manchester Arena bomber Salman Abedi, will not give evidence in his trial. Picture: Force for Deterrence in Libya/PA Wire

Among those killed were Sorrell Leczkowski, 14, from Adel, Leeds; Courtney Boyle, 19, a Leeds Beckett University student from Gateshead; Kelly Brewster, 32, from Sheffield; Wendy Fawell, 50, from Otley; and Angelika and Marcin Klis, a couple from York.

Addressing Abedi's defence barrister, Stephen Kamlish QC, the judge said: The jury are aware, obviously, that Mr Abedi is not in the courtroom, albeit he is in the court building.

"I think it is correct you are not on his behalf asserting or presenting evidence he is unfit to attend the trial?"

Mr Kamlish replied: "I am not."

The judge continued: "Secondly, may I ask you this: Have you advised your client, Mr Abedi, the stage has now been reached where he may give evidence and if he chooses not to do so or having been sworn refuses to answer any questions, the jury may draw inferences that are appropriate for his failure to do so?"

Mr Kamlish replied: "Yes, my lord, I have."

Turning to jurors, the judge said: "You will appreciate that that's all the evidence you are going to hear in this trial, there will be no further evidence and it's on that evidence in due course you will be asked to reach your verdicts in this case.

"However before that stage comes, I'm going to have to sum the case up to you and that will involve giving you some legal directions, some guidance on some evidential matters you have heard during the course of the trial, a reminder of relevant factors."

Jurors heard that Abedi was detained in Libya less than 48 hours after his brother detonated the suicide bomb, and was extradited to the UK two years later.

He answered "no comment" in police interviews, but handed detectives a prepared statement through his solicitor in which he denied involvement and said he "could not comprehend" his brother's actions.

His statement, read to jurors, added: "Had I had any idea of it I would have reported it to my mother initially and then to other family members to prevent it from happening. I was shocked my brother had done this and felt bad for everybody.

"I could never have envisaged that my brother had it in him to do this to innocent people."

Abedi said he was a practising Muslim but did not hold extremist views.

His statement said: "I know nothing about the purchase, storage, preparation and production of homemade explosives and constituent parts including what associated equipment is required.

"I have no knowledge of the appropriation, preparation and construction of improvised explosive devices and their constituent parts.

"I could never comprehend that my brother would have committed such a devastating attack taking not only his life but that of 22 others and injuring many more."

The trial opened on February 4 when the prosecutor told jurors Abedi was "just as guilty of murder" as his brother.

The brothers allegedly duped friends and associates into helping to buy components of the homemade explosive TATP.

They are alleged to have ordered, stockpiled and transported the components - plus several kilos of screws and nails to maximise carnage - using a variety of addresses and vehicles at their disposal in 2017.

Abedi, now also 22, denies 22 counts of murder, one count of attempted murder encompassing the injured survivors, and conspiring with his brother to cause explosions.

The trial continues on Thursday.