An application by the elder brother of the Manchester Area bombers for immunity from prosecution in return for answering questions at the public inquiry into the terror attack has been turned down.
Ismail Abedi, the brother of Salman Abedi, who detonated the bomb, and their younger brother Hashem, who was jailed for participating in the plot, wanted a promise from the attorney general that if he were to give evidence his answers would not “land him in the dock”, his solicitor, Jeremy Hawthorn, told the hearing in Manchester last month.
An immunity application was made to Sir John Saunders, chair of the inquiry. However, Saunders ruled that granting Abedi immunity in return for his cooperation could be seen as “a considerable affront to justice”.
The ruling, made public on Friday, said: “If as a result of an undertaking from the attorney general the applicant was to disclose material to the inquiry which provided evidence to justify charges of murder or conspiracy to murder, then he could avoid trial for 22 murders and causing serious injury to many more.
“I look forward to the cooperation of the applicant to assist my inquiry”.
Salman Abedi, 22, detonated a homemade shrapnel-packed bomb at the end of an Ariana Grande concert on 22 May 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.
Images from devices recovered at Ismail Abedi’s home during a police raid the day after the bombing indicated he was “sympathetic to the ideals of Isis”, the inquiry has heard. He was arrested, held for 14 days and interviewed by detectives 25 times but not charged with any offence because of insufficient evidence.
Lawyers for the families of the 22 people murdered in May 2017 were divided over whether to grant Abedi immunity to get him to cooperate and answer questions, with some who opposed the move describing it as “unconscionable”.
Ismail Abedi, who is married and lives in Manchester, is refusing to cooperate with the inquiry despite repeated requests. He has refused to answer the 40 questions put to him in writing by the inquiry or agree to appear in person as a witness, citing his legal privilege not to incriminate himself.
He is expected to be served soon with a legal notice that will “require” his attendance in person at the inquiry, which is sitting in Manchester. He will be entitled not to answer questions on the grounds that he may incriminate himself, but will have to justify why and on what grounds.
Abedi denies any knowledge or involvement in the bomb plot.