A jailed Islamist terrorist has invoked his human rights in a bid to block the disclosure of his psychiatric reports to the public inquiry into the Manchester Arena attack.
Abdalraouf Abdallah, 27, is refusing to co-operate with the inquiry, amid denials that he “groomed” the suicide bomber Salman Abedi.
Lawyers for the families of the 22 victims murdered and counsel to the public inquiry want Abdallah to give evidence about his links to Abedi, particularly about how Abedi came to be radicalised.
Abdallah’s lawyer told the inquiry he denies grooming Abedi or having any prior knowledge of the bomb plot and should not be treated as a “sacrificial lamb”.
Last summer before the inquiry began Abdallah gave a “no comment” interview to inquiry lawyers, using his legal privilege not to incriminate himself.
The inquiry instructed a forensic psychiatrist Dr John Kent to interview Abdallah in prison but he refused and instead was interviewed by a psychiatrist suggested by his legal team, Dr Richard Latham, with his report then reviewed by Dr Kent.
Dr Latham’s report concluded Abdallah was unfit to give evidence and making him do so could risk self-harm and suicide.
Abdallah wants only a “gist” of both reports to be disclosed and his lawyers on Tuesday applied for the full report to be withheld.
Abedi twice visited Abdallah in prison, they had discussed martyrdom and were in contact via a mobile phone smuggled into jail in the months leading up to the Manchester bombing on May 22 2017, the inquiry has heard.
He was released from jail in November on licence, before being recalled in January. Abdallah, a paraplegic after being injured in fighting in Libya was described as a man “wholly committed to terrorist purposes” as he was jailed for terror offences in 2016.
But he had “no faith” that he would be treated “fairly and properly” were he to co-operate with the inquiry, his lawyer Rajiv Menon QC, told the inquiry.
And as Abdallah has been declared unfit to give evidence Mr Menon said it would be wrong and unlawful to compel a “vulnerable” witness to appear before the inquiry, which could increase the risk of self-harm or suicide and interfere with his rights under article eight of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the right to a private life.
Mr Menon added: “He did not groom or radicalise Salman Abedi. He had no knowledge whatsoever of the planning and preparation of the terrorist attack at Manchester Arena.
“He heard about the attack for the very first time in prison after it had been reported in the press. He is unfit to give evidence.
“Mr Abdallah has been legally advised in the strongest possible terms that he should exercise his right to silence.”
Peter Weatherby QC, speaking for the bereaved families, said Abdallah was an “important” witness who should be called to give evidence and the medical reports were “central” to whether he should be excused from going into the witness box.
He added: “This is evidence (that) goes to the heart of some key matters – radicalisation has been referred to and whether the plot went further than the Abedi brothers themselves.”
Sir John Saunders, chairman of the inquiry, will rule on Abdallah’s application at a later date.
Abedi, 22, detonated a home-made shrapnel packed bomb at the end of an Ariana Grande concert at the arena on May 22 2017, killing 22 bystanders and injuring hundreds more.
His brother Hashem, was jailed in 2020 for a minimum of 55 years before parole for his part in the bomb plot. The inquiry was adjourned until next Monday.