More jail time for Manchester Arena bomber’s brother over prison officer attacks

Hashem Abedi and two other convicted terrorists were given more time behind bars over an attack in Belmarsh’s high security unit.

22 February 2022

The brother of the Manchester Arena bomber has been handed more jail time for attacking two prison officers in Belmarsh’s high security unit.

Ringleader Hashem Abedi, 24, hit 57-year-old Paul Edwards with a chair before he, Parsons Green Tube bomber Ahmed Hassan, 22, and a third convicted terrorist, Muhammed Saeed, 23, repeatedly punched and kicked the officer.

Abedi, who conspired with his elder brother, suicide bomber Salman Abedi, 22, in the terror attack that killed 22 people and injured hundreds more at the Manchester Arena on May 22 2017, is serving a life sentence with a minimum term of 55 years.

Hashem Abedi, Ahmed Hassan and Muhammed Saeed
Hashem Abedi, Ahmed Hassan and Muhammed Saeed (Handout/PA)

He was suspected of being the “amir” or “leader” of a group of Islamist terrorist inmates inside Belmarsh’s “prison within a prison”, Woolwich Crown Court heard.

Abedi is seen smiling in CCTV footage before he, Hassan and Saeed storm Mr Edwards’ office, where he operated an “open door policy”.

Mr Edwards, a custodian manager who has worked at Belmarsh for 25 years, told jurors he was hit with a chair, repeatedly punched and kicked on May 11 2020.

“I feared for my life, and I genuinely thought if I hadn’t fought back I would’ve ended up with at least extreme injuries or dead,” he said.

He said “it felt like a lifetime” before colleagues, including Nick Barnett, who has been a prison officer for 21 years, came to his aid seconds later.

Hashem Abedi
Hashem Abedi (GMP/PA)

“It was just like a pack of animals on Mr Edwards,” said Mr Barnett, who was kicked in the leg by Abedi during the melee.

Mr Edwards, who can be seen with head injuries and blood on his shirt in pictures released by police, suffered a laceration to his head, bruising to his back, ribcage and face, and has lasting damage to his hearing.

All three prisoners denied assault causing actual bodily harm (ABH) to Mr Edwards but were found guilty on Tuesday by a jury following a trial after around three and a half hours of deliberations.

Abedi was also found guilty of assault by beating of an emergency worker over the attack on Mr Barnett.

Before he was sentenced, Abedi told the judge Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb: “I don’t think the sentence is going to make any difference.

Belmarsh prison attack scene
The scene of the incident in which prison officer Paul Edwards was attacked at HMP Belmarsh (Met Police/PA)

“Inshallah, myself and all my brothers will be leaving the prison very soon.

“The promises of Allah and the Prophet are more truthful than your sentence and your judgment.”

She sentenced him to another three years and 10 months consecutive to his current sentence. Hassan, who is serving a life sentence with a minimum term of 34 years, and Saeed, who is serving a five-year sentence, were both handed three-year jail terms.

The judge said they had “shown disrespect for society and its rules” with the prison officers facing “danger every single day”.

“The courts must deal firmly with anyone who breaches the law in such grave circumstances,” she told them.

“Mr Abedi, you have ahead of you many decades in custody.

Paul Edwards injuries
Injuries caused to prison officer Paul Edwards (Met Police/PA)

“You say the sentence I pass will make no difference, and perhaps in your mind it will make no difference.

“But it is important that the law is applied and that each and every prisoner knows that if there is an attack on prison officers they will be brought to justice.”

Some members of the jury, who were not told about their convictions, were visibly shocked when they heard Abedi was found guilty by a jury in March 2020 of 22 counts of murder, attempted murder and plotting to cause an explosion likely to endanger life over the Manchester Arena attack.

Hassan was sentenced to life with a minimum term of 34 years in 2018 after planting a device that injured 51 passengers in September 2017.

Saeed was jailed for five years last May after pleading guilty to five counts of possessing an article for terrorist purposes, having shared so-called Islamic State propaganda and spoken about carrying out a knife attack in London.

All three were involved in a fight with a group of non-Muslim prisoners on March 1 2020, when their incentive and earned privileges (IEP) level was downgraded from “standard” to “basic”.

Belmarsh prison attack scene images
Items collected at the scene of the incident (Met Police/PA)

This meant they lost privileges including their televisions, and would have had less association time, fewer visits and no access to items such as game stations and DVD players.

The court heard Abedi had orchestrated six complaint letters from prisoners, including Mohiussunnath Chowdhury, 30, a jihadist jailed for life with a minimum term of 25 years in July 2020 after plotting a gun and knife rampage at London tourist hotspots.

Abedi and Hassan had their IEP downgraded again by Mr Edwards after shaving their heads without permission and Abedi met with the HSU governor to complain “he and his brothers wanted the regime changed” on the day of the attack.

Abedi, who defended himself, was not allowed to cross-examine his victims but accused other prison officers of lying in their statements as he questioned them from the dock.

In a closing speech, he said: “I don’t think we get treated like other prisoners.”

When Abedi appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court to answer the charge that he assaulted Mr Edwards, he said: “I did assault that filthy pig, but I don’t see any wrongdoing.”

Asked about the second charge, he was said to have replied: “Same as before, I don’t see any wrongdoing.”

At a later Crown Court appearance, Hassan told a judge: “I hate you very much, you are an evil man.”

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