Manchester Arena terrorist and Parsons Green bomber guilty of attacking prison officer

Three ISIS terrorists behaved like a 'pack of animals' during attack in London's Belmarsh jail

CCTV footage showing Hashem Abedi, Muhammed Saeed and Ahmed Hassan, who have been found guilty of assault causing actual bodily harm to prison officer Paul Edwards. PA
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Three convicted ISIS terrorists, including the brother of the Manchester Arena bomber, have been found guilty of attacking a prison officer in the high security Belmarsh Prison in London.

Ringleader Hashem Abedi, 24, Parsons Green Tube bomber Ahmed Hassan, 22, and Muhammed Saeed, 23, attacked Paul Edwards in May 2020.

A jury at Woolwich Crown Court on Tuesday convicted the men of assault causing actual bodily harm to Mr Edwards, 57.

I feared for my life, and I genuinely thought if I hadn’t fought back I would’ve ended up with at least extreme injuries – or dead
Paul Edwards, prison officer

Abedi was in the prison after he conspired with his elder brother, suicide bomber Salman Abedi, 22, to commit the Manchester Arena atrocity which killed 22 people and injured hundreds in May 2017.

He is suspected of being the “amir” or “leader” of a group of Islamist extremist terrorist inmates at Belmarsh’s “prison within a prison”, the court in south-east London heard.

He was joined by Hassan, who was sentenced to life after planting a device that injured 51 passengers on the London Underground in September 2017, and Saeed, who was convicted of carrying a knife for terrorist purposes.

On CCTV footage shown to the court, Abedi is seen smiling before he, Hassan and Saeed stormed Mr Edwards’ office, where he operated an “open door policy”.

Mr Edwards, a custodian manager who has worked at Belmarsh for 25 years, told jurors he was hit with a chair, repeatedly punched and kicked on May 11, 2020.

“I feared for my life, and I genuinely thought if I hadn’t fought back I would’ve ended up with at least extreme injuries — or dead,” he said.

He said “it felt like a lifetime” before colleagues, including Nick Barnett, who has been a prison officer for 21 years, came to his aid seconds later.

“It was just like a pack of animals on Mr Edwards,” said Mr Barnett, who was kicked in the leg by Abedi during the melee.

Mr Edwards, who can be seen with head injuries and blood on his shirt in pictures released by police, suffered a laceration to his head, bruising to his back, rib cage and face, and has lasting damage to his hearing.

All three prisoners denied the assault but were found guilty by a jury after three-and-a-half hours of deliberation.

Abedi was also found guilty of assault by beating of an emergency worker, Mr Barnett.

Abedi is serving 24 life sentences with a minimum term of 55 years after he was found guilty by a jury in March 2020 of 22 counts of murder, attempted murder and plotting to cause an explosion likely to endanger life over the Manchester Arena attack.

Hassan was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 34 years in 2018 after planting a bomb on the Parson's Green Tube train.

Saeed was jailed for five years in May 2021 after pleading guilty to five counts of possessing an article for terrorist purposes.

The jury was not told about their previous convictions or that all three were involved in a fight with a group of non-Muslim prisoners on March 1, 2020, when their incentive and earned privilege level in the jail was downgraded from “standard” to “basic”.

This meant they lost privileges including their televisions and would have less association time, fewer visits and no access to items such as games stations and DVD players.

The court heard Abedi had orchestrated six complaint letters from prisoners, including Mohiussunnath Chowdhury, 30, an Islamist extremist who was sentenced to life in jail with a minimum term of 25 years in July 2020 after plotting a gun and knife rampage at London tourist hotspots.

Abedi and Hassan had their privileges downgraded again by Mr Edwards after shaving their heads without permission and Abedi met with the prison governor to complain “he and his brothers wanted the regime changed” on the day of the attack.

Abedi, who defended himself, was not allowed to cross-examine his victims but accused other prison officers of lying in their statements as he questioned them from the dock.

In a closing speech, he said: “I don’t think we get treated like other prisoners.”

When Abedi appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court to answer the charge that he had assaulted Mr Edwards, he said: “I did assault that filthy pig but I don’t see any wrongdoing.”

Asked about the second charge, he was said to have replied: “Same as before, I don’t see any wrongdoing.”

At a later Crown Court appearance, Hassan told a judge: “I hate you very much, you are an evil man.”

On Tuesday, before he was sentenced, Abedi told the judge Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb: “I don’t think the sentence is going to make any difference.

“Inshallah, myself and all my brothers will be leaving the prison very soon.

“The promises of Allah and the Prophet are more truthful than your sentence and your judgment.”

She sentenced him to another three years and 10 months consecutive to his current sentence and handed Hassan and Saeed three-year jail terms.

The judge said they had “shown disrespect for society and its rules” with the prison officers facing “danger every single day”.

“The courts must deal firmly with anyone who breaches the law in such grave circumstances,” she told them.

“Mr Abedi, you have ahead of you many decades in custody.

“You say the sentence I pass will make no difference, and perhaps in your mind it will make no difference.

“But it is important that the law is applied and that each and every prisoner knows that if there is an attack on prison officers they will be brought to justice.”

Updated: February 22, 2022, 3:43 PM