Terrorist who Salman Abedi visited in jail tells Manchester Arena Inquiry he will co-operate

Convicted terrorist Abdalraouf Abdallah says he will co-operate with the Arena inquiry if treated fairly

A convicted terrorist and friend of Salman Abedi has said he is "a man of my word" and will co-operate with the Manchester Arena bombing inquiry "if treated fairly".

Abdalraouf Abdallah, 28, is said to have groomed Abedi into a "violent Islamist extremist worldview" before he went on to kill 22 people in the explosion at the end of a Ariana Grande concert in May 2017.

The conclusion from a radicalisation expert instructed by the inquiry is disputed by Abdallah, who also says he had no involvement in or knowledge of the attack.

On Wednesday, Abdallah appeared in person at Manchester Magistrates' Court after being transferred from custody at HMP Wakefield. where he is serving a sentence for preparing and funding acts of terrorism by helping four others travel to Syria.

Three prison officers sat in court as Abdallah, a paraplegic who was injured fighting in the 2011 Libya uprising, entered the inquiry witness box as members of some of the bereaved families looked on.

He was due to give evidence later but his lawyers applied for a delay because they argued they had not received full disclosure of the expert report from Dr Matthew Wilkinson and its "underlying material".

The inquiry previously heard that Abdallah, on legal advice, would not be answering any questions put to him.

Inquiry chairman Sir John Saunders asked him directly if he intends to co-operate with the inquiry into the atrocity committed by Abedi, 22, born in Manchester to Libyan parents.

Abdallah replied:

He continued: "I need time with my lawyers to be advised of everything and then we will go ahead, of course.

"I'm a man of my word. From where I come from a man does not lie... so if I say something to you it means it's true, I'm not manipulating or doing anything.

"To be honest the whole Libyan community is trying to find the truth and the community back home as well because we don't know what happened."

Emphasising that he will be treated fairly, Sir John told Abdallah the inquiry is not a criminal trial and he has the right not to answer questions that may incriminate him but there has to be "genuine" reasons which could be justified.

Sir John said the importance lies with the answers, not the questions.

Abdallah said: "I'm here for the families and my sympathies goes for them as well because the fact is as a community in Manchester we are trying to understand what actually, really really happened."

Earlier this week Sir John rejected another application from Abdallah's lawyers who claimed their client's human rights would be infringed by compelling him to attend because it would increase his risk of self-harm and/or suicide.

It is expected that when Abdallah is next scheduled to give evidence, on a date to be arranged, he will be asked about two prison visits that Abedi made to him and also phone contact between the pair in the months leading up to the Arena bombing.

In July 2016, Abdallah, from Moss Side, Manchester, was given an extended sentence of nine-and-a-half years, with a custodial term of five-and-a-half years.

He was released from jail in November on licence before being recalled in January - reportedly over a breach of a general condition requiring good behaviour - and is due to face a parole hearing.

The inquiry continues on Thursday.