Terrorist will not answer questions if forced to attend, Arena bomb inquiry told

A convicted terrorist accused of grooming Manchester Arena bomber Salman Abedi will not answer any questions if he is forced to attend the public inquiry into the atrocity, a court has heard.

The bereaved families of the 22 people killed in the explosion want Abdalraouf Abdallah, 28, to explain his links to Abedi and explore how the suicide attacker became radicalised.

The inquiry’s legal team served a notice on him this summer to attend the hearing in Manchester next Wednesday, but Abdallah’s lawyers argue that would infringe his human rights and violate his privilege against self-incrimination.

On Thursday, counsel to the inquiry Paul Greaney QC said: “Mr Abdallah has evidence of a high degree of potential relevance to give in relation to issues in relation to the radicalisation of Salman Abedi, and the planning and preparation for the Arena attack.

“As is publicly known, he is currently serving a sentence for terrorism offences and he was in contact with Salman Abedi both in person and electronically from 2014.

“Moreover he is regarded by the inquiry’s instructed expert on radicalisation, Dr Matthew Wilkinson, as responsible for, as he puts it, grooming Salman Abedi into the violent Islamist extremist worldview.”

In July 2016 Abdallah, from Moss Side, Manchester, was given a extended sentence of nine and half years, with a custodial term of five and a half years, after he was convicted of preparing and funding acts of terrorism by helping four others travel to Syria.

Abedi, 22, twice visited Abdallah in prison and was in contact via a mobile phone smuggled into jail in the months leading up to the Arena bombing on May 22 2017.

The inquiry has heard Abdallah was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after he became a paraplegic when injured in fighting in Libya in 2011 during the country’s uprising.

His barrister, Rajiv Menon QC, said that up to May 2020, when his client was first contacted by the inquiry, his medical records showed three incidents of self-harm in prison, but since then it had “markedly increased”, with 12 more self-harm incidents recorded, including, he said, an attempted suicide.

He submitted: “We say the evidence is clear, there is a real and objectively well-founded risk that Abdalrouf Abdallah will seriously and imminently self harm again if compelled to give evidence to the inquiry.”

Consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr John Kent, instructed by the inquiry to interview Abdallah last month, said his motivation for self-harm was varied and some had been linked to frustrations with the prison regime, including vaping on one occasion.

The doctor told Mr Greaney it was “very difficult” to assess whether the recent incidents could be manipulation by Abdallah, designed to avoid giving evidence.

A psychiatrist instructed by Abdallah’s legal team has said he is unfit to give evidence and making him do so could risk self-harm and suicide.

Addressing the issue of self-incrimination, Mr Menon said: “Forcing him to attend either in person or via CVP (videolink) and subjecting him to hours of questions that he will not be answering is, with all due respect, a pointless exercise and will serve no purpose other than to dehumanise and humiliate an already vulnerable man and frustrate all those who want him to answer questions.

“If there is a real and an appreciable risk that an answer that Mr Abdallah were to give may be used against him in criminal proceedings, he is entitled to refuse to answer that question.”

He said that counter-terrorism police had previously interviewed his client under caution as a suspect in the Arena attack and the following year, last summer, he was asked “similar if not identical questions” in prison by inquiry officials.

Mr Menon said: “In those circumstances he felt, and we say justifiably so, that he was being treated as a suspect both by the police and the inquiry.”

He said Dr Wilkinson’s expert report which concluded Abdallah groomed Abedi and was “effectively a co-conspirator” in the Arena attack was a “preposterous suggestion speculated at best without any proper evidential foundation”.

The inquiry also heard Abdallah told Dr Kent in one of his two interviews that he did intend to give evidence at his forthcoming parole board hearing, although Mr Menon said no date had been set for it yet and he had not given any legal advice to him over the matter.

Abdallah, who denies grooming Abedi or any involvement in the Arena attack, was released from jail in November on licence before being recalled in January – reportedly over a breach of a general condition requiring good behaviour.

Inquiry chairman Sir John Saunders said he will make a ruling “as soon as possible” on whether Abdallah should be compelled to attend next week, either in person or by prison videolink.

The inquiry was adjourned until next Tuesday.

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Categories: Abdalraouf Abdallah, Manchester Arena Inquiry, Manchester Bombing, News, Salman Abedi

Mosque attack suspect had video of New Zealand mass killing on phone, court told

A phone recovered from a man on trial for terrorism offences contained three copies of a livestream of the 2019 mass shooting in New Zealand, a court has heard.

The attack was carried out on a mosque in Christchurch by Brenton Tarrant, who killed 51 people and injured 40 others.

An iPhone belonging to Sam Imrie, 24, also contained a number of images glorifying the New Zealand shooter, with the words “Brenton Tarrant did nothing wrong”, “hail Tarrant” and “Saint Tarrant”.

Giving evidence on Wednesday, Detective Constable Murray Cairns of the Edinburgh organised crime and counter-terrorism unit described the footage of the attack as “horrific.”

He told the court: “(Tarrant) carried out a filming session of the attack. He livestreamed it at first, which was copied and then went massive on the internet.”

Asked to describe the video, he said: “It’s horrific. It starts with him driving, playing music before arriving at the Islamic centre.

“You see him getting the weapon from his car, going to the Islamic centre, you can see people walking towards him and he starts shooting, murdering them.

“You see him going from room to room, getting back into his vehicle.

“It’s graphic, you see him deciding when to fire and when not to fire.”

Imrie has been charged with posting statements on social media platform Telegram suggesting he was going to carry out an attack on the Fife Islamic Centre in Glenrothes, Fife.

The 24-year-old has also been accused of planning to stream live footage of “an incident”.

DC Cairns told the High Court in Edinburgh he had retrieved the files from the accused’s phone on July 31 2019.

The court was also shown images from the accused’s Facebook page.

The cover photo on the Facebook page was described in court as Adolf Hitler, standing in front of a microphone, addressing a crowd.

His biography read: “Seeing muslims suffer.”

Several symbols associated with “far right Nazism” were also posted on the Facebook page.

DC Cairns said one post which said “1488” could be explained in two parts.

The number 14 related to a sentence in Mein Kampf, a book written by Adolf Hitler, which he told the court said something along the lines of “We must assure a future for our people and a future for white children.”

He said it is associated with “modern neo-Nazi movements.”

The number 88, he said can be read as “HH” or “Heil Hitler”, with the numbers “transposed to letters”.

Later, the court heard a recording of the the accused’s interview with police on July 7 2019.

In it, he denied wanting to kill First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

The court previously heard that Imrie had posted on the Telegram app that he wanted Sturgeon “to die”.

Asked if he wanted to kill her, he replied: “No, I just don’t want the SNP to be the most popular party.”

He told police that he was “only pretending” to set fire to a mosque.

Asked if he hated Muslims, Imrie said: “I was just being edgy and drunk. I don’t hate anybody.”

Imrie told police he was a “white nationalist”.

He denied that he wanted to harm people of colour.

DC McCormack, conducting the interview, asked Imrie if he “understood how it looked” to threaten to set fire to a mosque on the Telegram app.

He replied: “I guess so. That’s not how it was. I didn’t do it.”

Among other charges, Imrie is accused of being in possession of neo-Nazi, antisemitic and anti-Muslim material, extreme pornography, including indecent images of children, and an image involving a human corpse.

He is also charged with driving while under the influence of drugs and alcohol in July 2019.

He denies all of the nine charges against him, three of which come under the Terrorism Act.

The trial, before Lord Mulholland, continues.

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Categories: Attack, Brenton Tarrant, Far Right groups, Fife mosque, Hitler, Neo-Nazi, News, Sam Imrie, trial