The 'cowardly' brother of the Manchester Arena bomber was told he can expect to die in prison after he was handed 24 life sentences for his part in the terror atrocity, which killed 22 people.
Hashem Abedi, 23, who the Old Bailey heard was inspired by Isis, helped his older brother Salman with crafting a bomb used in the suicide attack at an Ariana Grande concert in May 2017.
He was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum term of 55 years after being found guilty in March of 22 counts of murder, attempted murder and plotting to cause an explosion likely to endanger life.
It is thought to be the longest minimum term imposed on a terrorist in Britain.
Hashem refused to attend the first day of his sentencing hearing, and the court heard he had been brought to the Old Bailey but was not going to come to the courtroom.
He had stopped attending much of his trial, too, variously citing illness, flashbacks and a prison assault, all of which were discredited by healthcare professionals.
Justice Jeremy Baker, sentencing on Thursday, said: “If the defendant, like his brother, had been 21 or over at the time of the offence, the appropriate starting point would have been a whole life order.
“Not only because of the combination of the significant degree of pre-meditation but also because the motivation for them was to advance the ideology of Islamism, a matter distinct to and abhorrent to the vast majority for those who follow the Islamic faith.
“The defendant and his brother were equally culpable for the deaths and injuries caused by the explosion.
“The stark reality is, these were atrocious crimes. Large in scale, deadly in intent, appalling in their consequences.
“The despair and desolation of the bereaved families has been palpable.”
He added: “The defendant should clearly understand the minimum term he should serve is 55 years. He may never be released.”
Hashem’s older brother Salman Abedi killed 22 men, women and children aged between eight and 51 and injured many others in the bombing.
Hashem had travelled to Libya before the attack but was extradited back to the UK for trial.
He was described during the trial as “dozy” and an “unreliable” employee who worked in menial roles. He took drugs such as cannabis and MDMA, which Salman disapproved of.
Prosecutor Duncan Penny QC said he was “just as guilty” of the bomb plot as his brother.
The court heard the brothers bought nuts and screws for shrapnel and ordered chemicals to make homemade explosives, using unwitting friends and relatives for help.
They switched phones and used different vehicles to avoid detection, and used one property away from their home in Fallowfield, Manchester, to have the components delivered to and another as a bomb-making factory.
They had used the details of a relative to order a litre of sulphuric acid and set up an email, firstname.lastname@example.org, to order chemicals. The email account’s name is based on the Arabic for “to slaughter we have come”.
When their parents visited the UK in April 2017, the brothers used a Nissan Micra to store bomb-making items and emptied the two properties used to store parts and receive deliveries.
Police said there were concerns about their possible radicalisation and their parents insisted they join them in Libya, but Salman returned to the UK, buying more shrapnel and finishing his bomb at a flat in the centre of Manchester.
After the attack, police found Hashem’s fingerprints at key addresses and the Nissan.
He was arrested in the North African country and extradited in 2019.
Penny said Hashem was “at times chauffeur, at times quartermaster, at times electrical technician” in the plot.
Following his arrest, Hashem had tried to “point the finger of responsibility” at his dead brother but Penny said it was merely “an attempt to evade responsibility for his own culpability, for the cruel and cowardly carnage that took place at the arena that night”.
Away from the trial, Detective Chief Superintendent Simon Barraclough, who led the investigation, said it is possible Hashem was actually the senior partner in the bomb plot.
Ian Hopkins, chief constable of Greater Manchester Police, described the brothers as “cowardly” and “calculating murderers” who tried to divide society.
“But they failed to do that because actually what that atrocity did do, as painful as it was for those that lost their loved ones and those injured, it brought everybody together,” he said.
“And it showed, it showed the world that we stood together here in Manchester in our darkest hour.
“And the fact that we’ve had this sentence and him brought to justice shows terrorists around the world, if you commit an atrocity in the UK we will do absolutely everything to make sure you stand trial here and are brought to justice.”
He said Abedi was likely to die in jail and added the investigation is still live, and people police want to speak to are “not available in this country for us to speak to that we would wish to interview if possible”.
Boris Johnson said the jailing of Hashem for his role in the bombing is “an opportunity to reflect on the importance of tolerance, community and kindness”.
In a statement, the prime minister said: “The Manchester Arena attack was a horrifying and cowardly act of violence which targeted children and families.
“Those who were taken from us will never be forgotten, nor will the spirit of the people of Manchester who came together to send a clear message to the entire world that terrorists will never prevail.
“My thoughts remain with the survivors, and with the friends and families of victims, who have shown remarkable courage and dignity.
“I would also like to express my thanks to the police and all those who have worked tirelessly to deliver justice for the families.
“Today’s sentencing is an opportunity to reflect on the importance of tolerance, community and kindness – values which are fundamental to our country, and which we saw in Manchester in the face of unimaginable tragedy.”
Speaking after the sentencing, Figen Murray, whose son Martyn Hett was among those killed in the blast, said outside court: “Today’s sentence given to Hashem Abedi signifies the end of another chapter in our lives and reaffirmed to us that the British justice system is strong and fair and punishes those who break the law.”
Mark Rutherford, on behalf of the families of his daughter Chloe Rutherford, 17, and Liam Curry, 19, said outside the court: “We would like to thank Mr Justice Barker for imposing the biggest sentence ever in these circumstances.”
He thanked the court, the jury, the police and the Crown Prosecution Service, while members of both families clutched photographs of their loved ones.
The 22 people who were killed were: off-duty police officer Elaine McIver, 43, Saffie Roussos, eight, Sorrell Leczkowski, 14, Eilidh MacLeod, 14, Nell Jones, 14, Olivia Campbell-Hardy, 15, Megan Hurley, 15, Georgina Callander, 18, Chloe Rutherford, 17, Liam Curry, 19, Courtney Boyle, 19, Philip Tron, 32, John Atkinson, 28, Martyn Hett, 29, Kelly Brewster, 32, Angelika Klis, 39, Marcin Klis, 42, Michelle Kiss, 45, Alison Howe, 44, Lisa Lees, 43, Wendy Fawell, 50, and Jane Tweddle, 51.
A public inquiry into the bombing is scheduled to start next month.