The younger brother of the suicide bomber who set off an explosion at a 2017 concert in Manchester, England, killing 22 people and injuring hundreds, was sentenced at the Old Bailey in London on Thursday to a minimum of 55 years in prison.
Hashem Abedi, 23, had denied helping plan the attack that took place in the foyer of the Manchester Arena.
He was found guilty in March, however, of murder, attempted murder, and conspiring to cause explosions.
His sentencing had been postponed due to travel restrictions during the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic.
His elder brother Salman Abedi, who set off the bomb, died when he blew himself up in the May 22, 2017, bombing at the end of a concert by the U.S. pop singer Ariana Grande.
Judge Jeremy Baker said during Abedi’s sentencing hearing that the two brothers were “equally culpable for the deaths and injuries caused by the explosion.”
They had deliberately targeted a concert attended by young people, with almost half those killed being children or teenagers, he said.
“Although Salman Abedi was directly responsible, it was clear the defendant took an integral part in the planning,” Baker said.
The judge said that had the younger brother been over age 21 at the time of the explosion, he would have been given a “whole-life term.” Instead, he was sentenced to serve a minimum of 55 years before parole may be considered.
“The defendant should clearly understand the minimum term he should serve is 55 years. He may never be released,” Baker said.
He added that there was a “significant degree of premeditation” and that the motivation for the brothers was “to advance the ideology of Islamism.”
The May 2017 attack happened at around 10.30 p.m. as the audience members were leaving and parents were arriving to collect their children at the end of the pop concert.
Among the dead were seven children, the youngest aged just 8, while 237 people were injured.
The attack was the deadliest in Britain since the 2005 London transport suicide bombings, which killed 52 people.
The guilty verdict was handed down at the Old Bailey in March in a jury trial that was broadcast live to four locations outside London so that families and survivors could watch the proceedings.
They were shown how Hashem Abedi, who had plotted the attack along with his brother at their home in south Manchester, had experimented with the construction of a homemade device.
He and his brother made the device at a separate address in the city and then bought a car to store the bomb-making equipment, shortly before flying to Libya in mid-April 2017.
DNA and fingerprint evidence showed that Hashem Adedi had handled items used to make prototypes of the bomb that was ultimately used in the Manchester attack, and there was “no innocent explanation for his manipulating household items like cook oil cans,” the CPS said in a statement at the time of the trial.
Max Hill QC, the director of public prosecutions, said in a statement at the time of the trial that “Hashem Abedi encouraged and helped his brother knowing that Salman Abedi planned to commit an atrocity.”
“He has blood on his hands even if he didn’t detonate the bomb,” he said.
The Abedi brothers were born in Manchester to Libyan parents.
Their parents emigrated from Libya to Britain during the rule of late leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Hashem Abedi was in Libya at the time the British police and the Crown Prosecution Service were building the case against him.
He later became the first suspect to be successfully extradited to the UK from Libya in July 2019.
Hashem Abedi had left the UK in April 2017, about a month before the attack, along with his older brother Salman Abedi. Salman Abedi flew back to the UK four days before carrying out the Manchester attack.
Greater Manchester Police described how the tragedy had brought the community together.
Ian Hopkins, the chief constable of Greater Manchester Police, said in a statement that the brothers were “cowardly” and wanted to “divide us as a society,” but that they failed.
“The division and hatred he [Hashem Abedi] sought to foster was, amidst the pain, met by strength and unity—by the courage of the victims’ families, the bravery of the survivors and the kindness and generosity of Greater Manchester as a whole,” Hopkins said.
Hashem Abedi was prosecuted by the Counter-Terrorism Division of the Crown Prosecution Service, which prosecutes all terrorism cases in England and Wales
A conviction for murder in the UK carries an automatic life sentence, with offenders having to serve a minimum prison term before they can apply to the Parole Board for release.
Hashem Abedi was not in court for the sentencing hearing, having refused to enter the courtroom where distraught families of victims had given harrowing accounts of the devastating impact the bombing had had on their lives.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report