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Manchester Arena and Parsons Green bombers convicted of Belmarsh prison guard attack

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wo of Britain’s most notorious terrorists behind bombings on Manchester Arena and a train at Parsons Green have been convicted of a horrifying attack on a prison guard.

Hashem Abedi, 24, and Ahmed Hassan, 22, stormed the office at HMP Belmarsh of Paul Edwards, throwing punches and kicks at the 57-year-old who was also struck with a chair.

Mr Edwards, a custody manager at the maximum security prison with 25 years of experience, said he feared he was about to be killed when he was ambushed by Abedi, Hassan, and a third convicted terrorist, 23-year-old Muhammed Saeed.

“I feared for my life, and I genuinely thought if I hadn’t fought back I would’ve ended up with at least extreme injuries or dead,” he told Woolwich crown court.

On Tuesday, the three defendants were all found guilty of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, while Abedi was also convicted of an assault on one of Mr Edwards’ colleagues. They are due to be sentenced later.

Hashem Abedi, Ahmed Hassan and Muhammed Saeed have been found guilty of an attack on a prison officer (PA)

/ PA Media

The facts of the terrorists’ previous convictions did not form part of the trial, and the media was asked not to mention it in reports of the Belmarsh attack.

Abedi conspired with his older brother Salman Abedi to carry out the deadly Manchester Arena bombing, which claimed the lives of 22 people in May 2017 as they left an Ariana Grande concert.

The trial heard how he is now suspected of being “amir” or “leader” of a group of Islamist terrorist inmates inside Belmarsh’s “prison within a prison”.

Hassan detonated a homemade bomb on a packed District Line train at Parsons Green station on September 15, 2017, injuring 30 people as a fireball ripped through the train carriage.

Injuries caused to prison officer Paul Edwards

/ PA

Mr Edwards explained how he operated an “open door” policy at the prison, and his attackers exploited that on May 11, 2020.

“It felt like a lifetime””, he said, before colleagues including Nick Barnett came to his aid. “It was just like a pack of animals on Mr Edwards,” said Mr Barnett, who was kicked in the leg by Abedi during the melee.

Mr Edwards, who can be seen with head injuries and blood on his shirt in pictures released by police, suffered a laceration to his head, bruising to his back, rib cage and face, and has lasting damage to his hearing.

Abedi is serving 24 life sentences with a minimum term of 55 years after he was found guilty by a jury in March 2020 of 22 counts of murder, attempted murder and plotting to cause an explosion likely to endanger life over the Manchester Arena attack.

Hassan was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 34 years in 2018 after planting a device that injured 51 passengers in September 2017.

Hashem Abedi, 24, is one of three prisoners accused of attacking Paul Edwards, 57, at HMP Belmarsh on May 11 2020

/ PA Media

Saeed was jailed for five years last May after pleading guilty to five counts of possessing an article for terrorist purposes.

Prior to the attack on Mr Edwards, all three had been involved in a fight with a group of non-Muslim prisoners on March 1 2020 which led to their incentive and earned privileges (IEP) level being downgraded from “londonbusinessblog” to “basic”.

This meant they lost privileges including their televisions, and would have had less association time, fewer visits and no access to items such as games stations and DVD players.

The court heard Abedi had orchestrated six complaint letters from prisoners, including Mohiussunnath Chowdhury, 30, a jihadist jailed for life with a minimum term of 25 years in July 2020 after plotting a gun and knife rampage at London tourist hotspots.

Abedi and Hassan had their IEP downgraded again by Mr Edwards after shaving their heads without permission and Abedi met with the HSU governor to complain “he and his brothers wanted the regime changed” on the day of the attack.

The scene of the incident in which prison officer Paul Edwards was attacked at HMP Belmarsh

/ PA

Abedi, who defended himself, was not allowed to cross-examine his victims but accused other prison officers of lying in their statements as he questioned them from the dock.

In a closing speech, he said: “I don’t think we get treated like other prisoners.”

When Abedi appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court to answer the charge that he assaulted Mr Edwards, he said: “I did assault that filthy pig, but I don’t see any wrongdoing.”

Asked about the second charge, he was said to have replied: “Same as before, I don’t see any wrongdoing.”

At a later Crown Court appearance, Hassan told a judge: “I hate you very much, you are an evil man.”

Mrs Justice Cheema Grubb will pass sentence later on Tuesday.

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