Manchester Arena plotter pleads not guilty to assaulting prison officer

The Manchester Arena plotter Hashem Abedi has denied assaulting a prison officer at Belmarsh, telling a court: “I did assault that filthy pig, but I don’t see any harm in doing that.”

Abedi, who conspired with his brother Salman to plant a bomb in the 2017 attack, entered a not guilty plea to assaulting Belmarsh prison officer Paul Edwards.

He also denied a charge of assaulting a second member of staff named Nick Barnett, during a 15-minute hearing at Westminster magistrates court.

Abedi, appearing via video link from HMP Frankland in County Durham on his 24th birthday, was making his first public appearance in more than a year since refusing to attend the final weeks of his Manchester bombing murder trial at the Old Bailey a year ago.

Asked to enter a plea to the first charge on Thursday, Abedi, wearing a black, green and white zip-up jacket and with his hair grown out, said: “I did assault that filthy pig, but I don’t see any harm in doing that.” He added: “This is my plea.”

Asked to enter a plea on the second charge, Abedi said: “Same as before. I don’t see any wrongdoing.”

Chief magistrate Paul Goldspring formally recorded not guilty pleas.

Parsons Green Tube bomber Ahmed Hassan, who also appeared in court, pleaded not guilty to assaulting Mr Edwards.

But addressing the chief magistrate, he said: “I want to make three points before I confirm my name. I want you to know that I hate you very much because you are a judge, judging by other than the law of Allah. You will be destined for hellfire unless you repent and submit yourself to the law of Allah.

“I am not represented and evidence has not been disclosed to me.”

Goldspring told the pair, who were legally unrepresented, it was up to them to “do something about it” if they wanted lawyers at their next court appearance, in May.

The pair were due to attend court via video link on Wednesday, but refused to leave their cells, prompting the district judge Tan Ikram to state that reasonable force may be used should they refuse to cooperate for Thursday’s hearing.

Outlining the case, the prosecutor Nicholas Alexander said Abedi, Hassan, 21, and a third defendant, 23-year-old Muhammed Saeed, were out of their cells on 11 May last year when they entered an office and assaulted Edwards as he sat at a desk.

Edwards received cuts to his head and bruising, and was also kicked. He has hearing problems as a result of the attack, the court heard.

All three are due to enter pleas at Woolwich crown court on 5 May.

Hassan, who planted the Parsons Green Tube bomb in September 2017 that injured 51 passengers, was sentenced to life with a minimum term of 34 years in 2018.

Abedi was found guilty by a jury in March last year of 22 counts of murder, attempted murder and plotting to cause an explosion likely to endanger life over the 2017 Manchester Arena bomb attack.

He could die behind bars after being given 24 life sentences with a minimum term of 55 years before he can be considered for parole.

The Manchester Arena public inquiry heard evidence in December that he subsequently admitted involvement in the plot.

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