Daesh ‘groomer’ with ties to Manchester Arena bomber could be released from jail
LONDON: A British man convicted of helping people travel to join Daesh and accused of “grooming” the Manchester Arena bomber could soon be released from jail.
Abdalraouf Abdallah, 29, could be up for parole in November. He was jailed for nine-and-a-half years in 2016 for facilitating travel for people to fight in the civil war in Syria, and of raising money to support their efforts.
He was paralyzed from the waist down while fighting in the Libyan revolution of 2011, and was arrested in 2014 in the UK for suspected terrorist activities — charges he continues to deny.
At his trial in London it was revealed that correspondence was found on his mobile phone with the Manchester Arena bomber, Salman Abedi, in which the two discussed, among other things, martyrdom and the death of a member of Al-Qaeda.
Abdallah was released on license in November 2020, but was recalled to prison soon after for breaching his behavior-related conditions.
His prospective re-release comes after a change in the law in February 2020, mandating that criminals with convictions for terrorism offenses must serve two-thirds of their sentence in jail before review by the Parole Board.
In the UK, convicted criminals typically only serve half of a given custodial sentence dependent on circumstances before parole considerations.
A Parole Board spokesperson said: “We can confirm the parole review of Abdalraouf Abdallah has been referred to the Parole Board by the secretary of state for justice and is following standard processes.
“Parole Board decisions are solely focused on what risk a prisoner could represent to the public if released and whether that risk is manageable in the community,” the spokesperson said.
“A panel will carefully examine a huge range of evidence, including details of the original crime, and any evidence of behavior change, as well as explore the harm done and impact the crime has had on the victims.
“Evidence from witnesses such as probation officers, psychiatrists and psychologists, officials supervising the offender in prison as well as victim personal statements may be given at the hearing.
“It is standard for the prisoner and witnesses to be questioned at length during the hearing, which often lasts a full day or more. Parole reviews are undertaken thoroughly and with extreme care. Protecting the public is our number one priority.”
Abdallah’s trial heard that he arranged for the movement of people and money to Syria, all while confined to his wheelchair.
Prosecutor Max Hill, QC, accused Abdallah of being “at the center of a jihadist network facilitating foreign fighters . . . intent upon sending fighters to join groups in Syria who were committing terrorist acts in that country.”
After his conviction, Abdallah was visited in prison by Abedi, and continued to contact him via an illegal mobile phone in 2017 before the Manchester Arena bombing on May 22, which killed 23 people.
The inquiry into the bombing was told by one expert Abedi was “groomed” by Abdallah, who is from Moss Side in Manchester, claiming he converted Abedi to his “violent, Islamist, extremist world view.”
Abdallah denies involvement in the bombing. He was transferred from Wakefield Prison to give evidence at the inquiry in November 2021, where he said he was “haunted” by the attack, describing his correspondence with Abedi as “normal chitchat.”
However, Pete Weatherby, QC, representing families of the victims of the bombing, said that dialogue between the pair was “about radicalization, it was about discussing some kind of perverse death.”