Three convicted terrorists found guilty of attacking Belmarsh prison officer

Paul Edwards, 57, was attacked by Hashem Abedi, 24, Ahmed Hassan, 22, and Muhammed Saeed, 23, on May 11 2020.

22 February 2022

Three convicted terrorists including the brother of the Manchester Arena bomber have been found guilty of attacking a prison officer in Belmarsh’s high security unit.

Paul Edwards, 57, said he thought he would be killed when he was set upon by Hashem Abedi, 24, Parsons Green Tube bomber Ahmed Hassan, 22, and Muhammed Saeed, 23, who spoke about carrying out a knife attack in London.

Abedi conspired with his elder brother, suicide bomber Salman Abedi, 22, who killed 22 people and injured hundreds more at the Manchester Arena on May 22 2017.

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.

Manchester Arena Inquiry
Hashem Abedi, Ahmed Hassan and Muhammed Saeed have been found guilty of an attack on a prison officer (PA)

He 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.

“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, rib cage 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 at Woolwich Crown Court on Tuesday by a jury 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.

The judge, Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb, said she will sentence them later on Tuesday.

CCTV played to the jury at Woolwich Crown Court during the trial of Hashem Abedi, 24, (right) Ahmed Hassan, 22, (left) and Muhammed Saeed, 23, (centre) (Metropolitan Police/PA)
CCTV played to the jury at Woolwich Crown Court during the trial of Hashem Abedi, 24, (right) Ahmed Hassan, 22, (left) and Muhammed Saeed, 23, (centre) (Metropolitan Police/PA)

Abedi is serving 24 life sentences with a minimum term of 55 years after he 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 imprisonment 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.

The jury was not told about their convictions or that 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”.

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