The brother and accomplice of the Manchester Arena suicide bomber is facing a minimum of 55-years life imprisonment following the murder of 22 people, in what has been described as the largest murder case in English legal history.

Words by Joshua McLaughlin

On 22 May 2017, at 22:31, 22-year-old Salman Abedi detonated a homemade shrapnel bomb in the City Room of the Manchester Arena following an encore at an Ariana Grande concert. Killing himself as well as 22 other people, and injuring over 800 others, this incident was the first and deadliest UK terrorist attack since the 7/7 London bombings.

Three-years following the incident, a landmark court ruling has been delivered in the form of a life sentence for each of the 22 lives that were tragically lost – almost half of whom were minors.

Hashem Abedi, the younger brother and now convicted accomplice of the suicide bomber has been given a 55-year minimum life sentence following a two-day sentencing hearing at the Old Bailey in Manchester on 20 August.

Hashem Abedi was found guilty in March after the court heard he was “equally culpable” as his brother for the deaths and injuries caused by the explosion, due to his inextricable involvement in their joint process of planning, sourcing and constructing resources for the bomb in advance of the attack. He was officially found guilty of 22 counts of murder, attempted murder of all the remaining injured individuals, and for conspiring to cause explosions.

Figen Murray, the mother of Martyn Hett who was killed from the blast, said: “Abedi has now faced justice for his crimes.” She is subsequently campaigning for the enactment of Martyn’s Law – one that would make it compulsory for every venue in the UK to assess the potential risk of a terrorist attack.

Having left the UK for Libya prior to the bombing, Manchester-born Hashem Abedi was arrested for his suspected connection to the incident a day after the attack, subsequently being extradited back to the UK to face trial.

The Old Bailey heard that the pre-meditated terrorist attack began 6-months prior to the incident at the Manchester Arena, where both brothers began collecting materials necessary to construct “an improvised explosive device of the kind used in the subsequent explosion.”

Hashem and Salman Abedi collectively devised a subterfuge to accumulate the necessary ingredients in producing the highly explosive material of Triacetone Triperoxide (TATP), a substance they combined with shrapnel to cause maximum injury to people in its vicinity upon detonation.

As the brothers were accused of deliberately targeting a young audience demographic at the Manchester leg of Ariana Grande’s 2017 ‘Dangerous Woman’ tour, Mr Justice Jeremy Baker remarked: “The stark reality is that these were atrocious crimes: large in their scale, deadly in their intent and appalling in their consequences.”

Image Credit: Russel Harry Lee

Hashem Abedi, being only 20-years-old at the time of the attack, fell under the protection of subsections within section 269 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 – meaning that the court could not impose the minimum of a whole life sentence upon him. The Act provides a sentence of 30 years to be an appropriate starting point, though this was exacerbated in Mr Abedi’s case due to the extent of his involvement, alongside the severity of his intentions to harm.

The court was also witness to what was described as ‘palpable’ victim impact statements throughout the two-day sentencing period. Witnesses were described as “diverse, talented and extraordinary individuals whose lives have either been extinguished or forever blighted by the physical and psychological effects of the explosion,” by Mr Justice Jeremy Baker. Many survivors have been recorded as feeling guilt and shame for surviving the incident – with most enduring psychological trauma.

Members of bereaved families detailed the trial as “torturous” for having to relive the attacks on their children, highlighting that Hashem Abedi was not even present for the majority of the sessions due to the judge having no “legal right” to compel him to attend.

“No sentence will be enough for us,” they stated. “We will be the ones serving that sentence, we’ve had our children ripped from us in the most horrific way and nothing will ever come close to taking that searing pain away.”

In the wake of the sentencing, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that the jailing of Hashem Abedi is “an opportunity to reflect on the importance of tolerance, community and kindness.

“Those who were taken from us will never be forgotten, nor will the spirit of the people from Manchester who came together to send a clear message to the entire world that terrorists will never prevail.”

With echoing sentiments from Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, describing the attack as “pure evil,” he added that it “ultimately failed” as “it was meant to divide us but it only brought us closer together.”

This was in reference to the 2017 Albert Square vigil, countless displays of solace and solidarity from international audiences, as well as the One Love Manchester concert organised by Ariana Grande herself.

Produced as a benefit concert centred in Manchester on 4 June 2017, merely two weeks after the attack, One Love Manchester simultaneously broadcast live to more than 50 countries and ultimately raised over £10 million towards the We Love Manchester Emergency Fund within the first 12-hours of airing. It also provided some much-needed relief for a city in mourning.

This gesture of bravery and determination from Grande in the face of extreme adversity earned her the title of being Manchester’s first honorary citizen in 2017.

Described by Ian Hopkins, Greater Manchester’s Police Chief Constable: “The division and hatred he [Hashem Abedi] sought to foster were, amidst the pain, met by strength and unity – by the courage of the victims’ families, the bravery of the survivors and the kindness and generosity of Greater Manchester as a whole.”

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