LONDON — The brother of the Manchester Arena suicide bomber was sentenced to a minimum of 55 years in prison on Thursday for the murder of 22 people and helping to plan one of the deadliest terror attacks in British history.
Hashem Abedi, the younger brother of suicide bomber Salman Abedi, who also injured 100 others when he blew himself up in 2017 at the arena in Manchester, England, shortly after an Ariana Grande concert. Abedi refused to enter the courtroom at London’s Central Criminal Court, known as the Old Bailey.
The judge, Mr Justice Jeremy Baker, said he would have received a full life sentence if “like his brother, had been 21 or over at the time of the offence."
He said his crime showed a significant degree of premeditation and was motivated by a desire to advance the ideology of Islamism, "a matter distinct to and abhorrent to the vast majority for those who follow the Islamic faith."
He added that Abedi should “clearly understand the minimum term he should serve is 55 years,” adding that he may never be released.
The sentencing came after a series of emotional statements from families of the victims were read out in court on Wednesday.
The judge delayed the sentencing after Abedi was found guilty in March, because of the coronavirus pandemic. He insisted the families should be able to attend the hearing and said he wanted to give them time to prepare their statements.
At trial in March, prosecutor Duncan Penny QC told the court that Abedi was “just as guilty” as his brother, who killed 22 men, women and children when he blew himself up as concertgoers left the arena.
He said they had ordered chemicals from Amazon, while hiding their activities by switching cellphones and changing vehicles. Together they experimented with its construction, buying screws and nails to be used as shrapnel, the court heard.
While their plans were briefly thwarted when their parents made them join them in Libya in April 2017, Salman Abedi returned to carry out the plot.
Download the NBC News app for breaking news and politics
Hashem Abedi was in Libya when the attack took place and became the first suspect to be successfully extradited from Libya to Britain when he was sent back in July 2019, according to Britain's Crown Prosecution Service.
The Abedi family emigrated to Britain in the 1990s during the rule of late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, later moving from London to the Fallowfield area of south Manchester.
Hashem Abedi was born in Manchester and the brothers' father returned to Libya after Gaddafi was toppled in 2011.
Outside the court, some of the victims family members thanked the judge.
"We would like to thank Mr Justice Barker for imposing the biggest sentence ever in these circumstances," said Mark Rutherford, whose daughter Chloe Rutherford was 17 when she died in the attack.
Figen Murray, whose son Martyn Hett was among those killed in the blast, said the sentence had "reaffirmed to us that the British justice system is strong and fair and punishes those who break the law."
In a statement after the verdict, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the victims would "never be forgotten."
"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," he added.