Manchester and Parsons Green terrorists convicted of attacking prison officer inside HMP Belmarsh

Manchester and Parsons Green terrorists convicted of attacking prison officer inside HMP Belmarsh

The Manchester bomber’s brother has been convicted of attacking a prison officer inside one of the UK’s most secure jails.

Hashem Abedi launched the “animalistic” assault alongside the Parsons Green bomber, Ahmed Hassan, and fellow Isis-supporting terror offender Muhammed Saeed.

Woolwich Crown Court heard how they had associated while being held in the high security unit at HMP Belmarsh, described as a “prison within a prison”.

Abedi was sentenced to an extra three years and 10 months in prison, on top of his existing 55-year minimum term. Hassan and Saeed were handed an extra three years each, also to run consecutively to their current sentences.

When asked if he wanted to make any submissions on his sentence, Abedi told the judge; “I don’t think the sentence is going to make any difference, inshallah [hopefully] myself and the brothers will be leaving prison very soon.

“The promise of Allah and his prophet are more truthful than your sentence and your judgment.”

On 11 May 2020, they attacked custodian manager Paul Edwards in his office, hours after a meeting where Abedi had unsuccessfully demanded changes to the prison’s regime.

During the meeting, Mr Edwards asked if Abedi, now 24, had become the “emir” or leader of Muslim prisoners in the high-security unit.

Prosecutor Sasha Wass QC said Abedi was the “ringleader” of the defendants and wanted to show “that he was not a person who was going to be disrespected”.

“The assault on Mr Edwards was a planned act of retribution and he could have ended up much more seriously injured had it not been for the swift intervention of other officers on the unit,” she told jurors on Monday.

Justice Cheema-Grubb commended “the quick thinking of all the prison officers who responded” to the attack, as Mr Edwards and his colleagues looked on from the public gallery.

“Prisons protect defendants, they also protect society – everyone in prison must be safe,” she told the defendants. “Your offences show utter disrespect for society and its rules.”

At the time of the attack, Abedi was awaiting sentence after being convicted of murdering the 22 victims of the Manchester Arena bombing.

Prosecutors said he was “jointly responsible” for the May 2017 blast, after helping his brother Salman plan the attack and build the deadly suicide bomb used.

Hashem Abedi, left, Ahmed Hassan, centre, and Muhammed Saeed charged with assault at Belmarsh prison in London (Met Police)

Hassan, now 22, had been jailed for life with a minimum of 34 years for trying to murder London commuters in the 2017 Parsons Green bombing. The attack failed because his device only partially detonated.

Saeed, now 23, was being held on remand ahead of a trial for possessing an article for terrorist purposes.

He later pleaded guilty to five offences and was jailed, after a court heard that he had also discussed committing a knife attack himself. All three men were Isis supporters at the time of their offences.

Jurors were not told why the men were in the prison during the trial, and some appeared visibly shocked and distressed when information about their past actions was revealed following the verdict on Tuesday.

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said: “Due to the criminal history of the defendants, the assault was investigated by the Counter Terrorism Command. However, there was no evidence of any terrorist intent.”

Abedi denied the charges but had admitted them at a preliminary court hearing, when he said: “I did assault that filthy pig, but I don’t see any wrongdoing.”

During the same hearing, Hassan told a judge he was “destined for hellfire” because he was “judging by other than the law of Allah”.

The attack took place at around 3pm, as the inmates returned from an exercise session for Muslim prisoners.

CCTV showed Abedi walking up a flight of stairs ahead of the other two defendants, smiling and wearing a prayer cap.

The footage, which had no sound, appeared to show him talking to Saeed for a few seconds after they reached a landing and waited for a security gate.

The three men then spinted into Mr Edwards’ office, followed by prison officers. Mr Edwards told the jury he feared for his life during the attack.

Blood on Paul Edwards’ desk at HMP Belmarsh following the attack (Metropolitan Police)

“I heard something behind me and as I turned round, I noticed Saeed was in the process of kicking towards my head, “ he added.

“I saw Abedi grab an office chair – he picked it up, swung it and it hit my head and back.”

Mr Edwards said he was knocked to the floor, where the three terror offenders punched and kicked him.

“I feared for my life and I genuinely thought if I didn’t fight back I could have extreme injuries or die,” he added.

Jurors were shown CCTV where Mr Edwards was being helped out of his office, with blood on his face and shirt.

He suffered lacerations to his head and bruising to his back and ribcage, as well as damage to his hearing.

The court heard that the men were dragged off Mr Edwards and subdued by other prison officers.

They were convicted of causing actual bodily harm to the prison officer, while Abedi was also convicted of assaulting his colleague Nick Barnett after he ran in to help Mr Edwards.

Mr Barnett described the “utter chaos” as he burst into the office, adding: “It was just like a pack of animals on Mr Edwards.” He was left with bruising to his left shin, thigh, and right forearm after struggling with Abedi.

Another prison officer, Paul Langridge, said it was a “vicious, animalistic attack”, and that even after he punched Abedi in the face he continued trying to reach his victim.

“I punched him several more times in stomach and once in ribcage and that did the job, that winded him. I was able to force him off of Paul and throw him on the floor and attempt to restrain him.”

The court heard that the attack came after several incidents in the previous months that resulted in Muslim and non-Muslim prisoners being separated in the high-security unit.

Because of a fight in March 2020, all three defendants were disciplined and had their level of privileges downgraded to “basic”.

It was raised back to standard after a review the following month, but Abedi and Hassan were then downgraded again after shaving their hair without permission.

The court heard that it was Mr Edwards who downgraded their status, and that he was also present at a meeting on the morning of the attack where Abedi asked for changes to the prison regime and was refused. He noted that Abedi “had a definite smirk on his face as he left”.

Desk Team

Desk Team