The Greater Manchester mayor, Andy Burnham, has expressed grave concerns after it emerged that the brother of the Manchester Arena suicide bomber will be tried in Libya.
Hashem Abedi, 20, is alleged to have played a key role in the suicide bombing carried out by his older brother, Salman Abedi, which killed 22 people and injured more than 200 in May.
Hashem and his father, Ramadan, were arrested in Tripoli by members of Libya’s Special Deterrence Force a day after the attack. Ramadan has since been released but Hashem is still in custody and will go on trial within the next two months, according to Al Sadiq al-Sour, the chief prosecutor for the authorities in war-torn Libya, who spoke to the BBC.
Burnham said on Thursday that a trial in Libya “would in no way represent justice for all those who have been affected”, and he called on Theresa May to ensure any trial would be held in the UK.
He said: “I have grave concerns about reports that a trial may take place in Libya connected with the atrocious attack at the Manchester Arena in May. This was an appalling attack on our city and any trial conducted thousands of miles from Manchester would in no way represent justice for all those who have been affected.
“It is essential that any trial connected to the attack, particularly if it involves a UK citizen, takes place in the UK under British law. I am today calling on the prime minister and the government to do everything within their power to make sure that this is what happens.”
The Abedi brothers are thought to have flown from Britain to Libya on 18 April. Salman travelled back to Manchester about a week before the 22 May attack, telling his parents he was going on pilgrimage to Mecca.
Sour told the BBC that the investigation into Hashem Abedi would be completed within two months “at most, ready for a trial”.
Another male relative of the Abedis has also been held after his credit card was allegedly used to buy ingredients for the bomb, according to the Libyan authorities.
Sour said British police had been given a list of names of other people who should be questioned “to get more information about the suspects, their movements, their ideologies, if there were any signs they were going to carry out the attack. They are not necessarily suspects themselves, but it’s important to get information from them.”
Police made scores of arrests in Greater Manchester after the bombing but all of the suspects were released after questioning.
DCS Russ Jackson, the head of the north-west counter-terrorism unit, said they believed Salman Abedi was not part of a large network but did not act alone during the months-long planning for the attack.
He said officers were engaged with the authorities in Libya and wanted to speak to Hashem Abedi, and he did not rule out further arrests in the UK.
The family are originally from Libya and fled during Muammar Gaddafi’s dictatorship, with the father returning to fight with opposition forces when the uprising began in 2011.
An extradition agreement between the UK and Libya was agreed in 2009, but since the overthrow of Gaddafi in 2011 the country has been split into warring factions. The UN-backed, internationally recognised Government of National Accord is struggling to assert control over swaths of the country that are in the hands of dozens of different militias, including Islamic State-affiliated groups.