The older brother of the Manchester Arena attacker has been sentenced in absentia for failing to testify in the public inquiry into the attack.
Ismail Abedi, 28, whose whereabouts are currently unknown, refused to co-operate with the investigation but was ordered by the President, Sir John Saunders, to attend to give evidence.
He was listed for trial at Manchester Magistrates Court on Thursday under another name he has used, Ishmale Ben Romdhan, but did not attend.
District Judge Jack McGarva found him guilty of failing to do something required by a Section 21 notice without a reasonable excuse.
He has prevaricated, he has obfuscated, he has thrown down every obstacle he could think of. When they failed, he fled the jurisdiction.
Prosecuting Attorney Nicholas de la Poer QC
The judge adjourned the case until August 2, saying that if Abedi does not attend that hearing, an arrest warrant will be issued for him.
He said: “The court is obliged to consider the possibility of handing down a custodial sentence.
“There is a very high level of public interest in ensuring that people cooperate with public consultations.”
He said Abedi could have testified on “some really key points that the families of the deceased would have really liked to have answered.”
Nicholas de la Poer QC, Prosecutor, said: “The prosecution states that it can be certain from the chronology that the accused was determined from the outset not to co-operate with the investigation.
“He has prevaricated, he has obfuscated, he has thrown down every obstacle he could think of.
“When they failed, he fled the jurisdiction.
“In the end it all comes down to this: You were legally required to attend, you didn’t attend, and there is no good reason for you not to attend.”
The court heard that Abedi had previously said that he did not want to answer the investigation questions because he was worried about the risk of self-incrimination, had already been questioned by police and was worried about his safety and that of his family.
But District Judge McGarva found that he had no reasonable excuse for not attending.
The court heard that police stopped Abedi at Manchester airport on August 28 last year and told them he planned to return to the country the following month.
He left the country the following day and is not believed to have returned.
Kim Harrison, lead attorney for Slater and Gordon, who represented 11 of the victims’ families, said: “While we celebrate Ismail Abedi’s conviction today, we remain very disappointed that the conviction took place in his absence.
“We remain very concerned about how Abedi was able to leave the country before giving evidence in the investigation in the first place.
“His departure from the country should never have happened and, despite the conviction, it is unlikely that he will face real justice until he is arrested, if at all.
“The families deserve to know the truth of what happened that night, and the contempt that Ismail Abedi has shown them is truly despicable”
The IT worker was described as a key witness for the investigation, able to answer questions about the radicalization of his younger brothers, Salman, who carried out the suicide attack that killed 22 people on May 22, 2017, and Hashem, who has been imprisoned for his part in the bomb plot.
According to the investigation, he also had potential evidence to give about the preparation of the bomb, given that his DNA was found on a hammer in a car used to store the explosives.
He had already been detained in 2015 at Heathrow airport and his phone was found to have a “significant” amount of “highly disturbing” material described as “Islamic State mentality”.
Grieving families labeled Ismail Abedi a “coward” for refusing to answer questions.
His father, Ramadan Abedi, was associated with the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a militia that had ties to the al Qaeda terrorist organization, the public inquiry heard.
He lives in Libya, has also not cooperated with the investigation and the police want to question him as a suspect.
Hashem Abedi, 24, was jailed for life for the 22 Arena murders by helping with the bomb plot.