The brother of the Manchester bomber has refused to attend a courtroom for sentencing after he was convicted of mass murder for his role in the 2017 attack, a judge has said.
Hashem Abedi, 23, whose brother Salman detonated a homemade device at an Ariane Grande show at Manchester Arena in May 2017, was found guilty in March of 22 counts of murder, one count of attempted murder and plotting to cause an explosion.
Abedi had claimed he had nothing to do with the plot and that he had been unaware of Salman’s intentions.
As his sentencing got under way at the Old Bailey on Wednesday, judge Justice Jeremy Baker said Abedi was in the court building but was refusing to attend court.
He said Abedi was legally unrepresented and said: “Generally for trial – albeit this is a sentencing hearing – the court is prohibited from proceeding if the defendant is absent from the court, unless the defendant has waived his right to attend.
“I have required in this case Hashem Abedi to be brought to Central Criminal Court. That is what I have done.
“You will also no doubt be aware that the court has no legal right to direct a prison officer to use force to compel a prisoner to attend court.
“My understanding is that having been brought to this building, Hashem Abedi has refused to come into the courtroom.
“That is a matter for HM Probation Service rather than myself. Force cannot be used.”
The court heard Abedi met with solicitors last month, but a letter from their firm said that Abedi “made it clear to us that firstly he will not be attending the sentencing either in person or remotely, and secondly he doesn’t wish to be represented by us or any other firm of solicitors”.
The judge said: “He has had every opportunity and has been encouraged to have legal representation.
“But he has made it clear and I am satisfied that he does not wish to be present at this hearing.”
The court heard Abedi would have been eligible for a whole-life sentence had he been over the age of 21 at the time of the Manchester Arena bombing.
Justice Baker said it was not a matter for the courts but a “matter for Parliament who pass legislation which prevents the court of making a whole-life order in the circumstances of this case”.
Abedi’s trial heard how he and Salman would order chemicals and stash bomb components at different addresses to their Manchester home.
The prosecution said Abedi was “just as guilty” as Salman, despite having been in Libya when the attack took place. Salman returned from Libya to Manchester to complete preparations before detonating the bomb in the Manchester Arena foyer, killing 22 people.
Abedi was later detained in Libya and extradited to face trial in the UK.
Partway through his trial, his attendance dropped off as he cited illness and flashbacks – claims dismissed by healthcare professionals – and he instructed his defence lawyer not to provide a closing speech, a move almost without precedent at the Old Bailey.
Wednesday’s hearing has included a series of moving statements from the families of the bomb victims.
Figen Murray, the mother of 29-year-old public relations manager Martyn Hett, said she can no longer go to sleep until after 10.31pm, the time the bomb was detonated.
“I still cannot reconcile that I was fast asleep while my son lay dead on the floor, and I am ashamed about that,” she said.