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Manchester Arena families say jailed extremist 'should give evidence'

Manchester Arena families say jailed Islamic extremist should be FORCED to give evidence as he claims he’s in an ‘unfit mental state’ to appear at inquiry – but tells his lawyer he did not help radicalise bomber Salman Abedi

  • Abdalraouf Abdallah, 27, refuses to co-operate with Manchester Arena inquiry
  • He was visited by terrorist Salman Abedi in prison months before 2017 bombing
  • Lawyers for the families of the 22 victims want him to give evidence to inquiry 
  • Abdallah’s lawyer told the inquiry he denies grooming Abedi prior to the attack
  • A psychiatrist’s report concluded Abdallah was unfit to give evidence to inquiry

Families of the victims of the Manchester Arena bombing believe a convicted Islamic extremist – suspected of having radicalised terrorist Salman Abedi – should be forced to give evidence to a public inquiry.

Lawyers representing the families of the 22 victims of the 2017 attack say Abdalraouf Abdallah is an ‘important witness’ in understanding how suicide bomber Abedi was radicalised.

Abdallah, who was jailed in 2016 for terror offences, was twice visited by Abedi in prison prior to the Manchester Arena attack – which took place at the end of an Ariana Grande concert.

However Abdallah, described as a man ‘wholly committed to terrorist purposes’, denies he ‘groomed’ the suicide bomber. 

The 27-year-old is refusing to co-operate with the public inquiry into the attack. 

A psychiatrist, suggested by Abdallah’s legal representatives, has now ruled the extremist is ‘unfit to give evidence’.

And Abdallah has invoked his human rights in a bid to block the disclosure of his psychiatric reports to the public inquiry.

However, Peter Weatherby QC, speaking for the bereaved families, said Abdallah was an ‘important’ witness who should be called to give evidence.

And he told the inquiry the medical reports were ‘central’ to whether he should be excused from going into the witness box.

He added: ‘This is evidence (that) goes to the heart of some key matters – radicalisation has been referred to and whether the plot went further than Abedi (and his brother).’

Abdalraouf Abdallah, 27, is refusing to co-operate with the inquiry into the 2017 terror attack, in which suicide bomber Salman Abedi murdered 22 people at the end of an Ariana Grande concert

Abdallah, who was jailed in 2016, was twice visited by suicide bomber Abedi (pictured) in prison prior to the attack

Abdallah’s lawyer told the inquiry he denies grooming Abedi or having any prior knowledge of the bomb plot and should not be treated as a ‘sacrificial lamb’.

Last summer, before the inquiry began, Abdallah gave a ‘no comment’ interview to inquiry lawyers, using his legal privilege not to incriminate himself.

The inquiry instructed a forensic psychiatrist Dr John Kent to interview Abdallah in prison but he refused.

He was instead interviewed by a psychiatrist put forward by his legal team, Dr Richard Latham, with his report then reviewed by Dr Kent.

Dr Latham’s report concluded Abdallah was unfit to give evidence and making him do so could risk self-harm and suicide.

Abdallah wants only a ‘gist’ of both reports to be disclosed and his lawyers on Tuesday applied for the full report to be withheld.

Abedi twice visited Abdallah in prison the inquiry heard.

They had discussed martyrdom and were in contact via a mobile phone smuggled into jail in the months leading up to the Manchester bombing on May 22, 2017, the inquiry has was told.

He was released from jail in November on licence, before being recalled in January.

Abdallah, a paraplegic after being injured in fighting in Libya, was described as a man ‘wholly committed to terrorist purposes’ as he was jailed for terror offences in 2016.

But he had ‘no faith’ that he would be treated ‘fairly and properly’ were he to co-operate with the inquiry, his lawyer Rajiv Menon QC, told the inquiry.

And as Abdallah has been declared unfit to give evidence, Mr Menon said it would be wrong and unlawful to compel a ‘vulnerable’ witness to appear before the inquiry, which could increase the risk of self-harm or suicide and interfere with his rights under article eight of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the right to a private life.

Mr Menon added: ‘He did not groom or radicalise Salman Abedi. He had no knowledge whatsoever of the planning and preparation of the terrorist attack at Manchester Arena.

Abedi twice visited Abdallah in prison the inquiry heard. They had discussed martyrdom and were in contact via a mobile phone smuggled into jail in the months leading up to the Manchester bombing on May 22, 2017, (pictured: Police at the scene) the inquiry has was told

‘He heard about the attack for the very first time in prison after it had been reported in the press. He is unfit to give evidence.

‘Mr Abdallah has been legally advised in the strongest possible terms that he should exercise his right to silence.’

Peter Weatherby QC, speaking for the bereaved families, said Abdallah was an ‘important’ witness who should be called to give evidence and the medical reports were ‘central’ to whether he should be excused from going into the witness box.

He added: ‘This is evidence (that) goes to the heart of some key matters – radicalisation has been referred to and whether the plot went further than the Abedi brothers themselves.’

Sir John Saunders, chairman of the inquiry, will rule on Abdallah’s application at a later date.

Abedi, 22, detonated a home-made shrapnel packed bomb at the end of an Ariana Grande concert at the arena on May 22 2017, killing 22 bystanders and injuring hundreds more.

His brother Hashem, was jailed in 2020 for a minimum of 55 years before parole for his part in the bomb plot.

The inquiry was adjourned until next Monday.

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