Tommy Robinson, Anti-Muslim Activist, Is Freed on Bail in U.K.


Tommy Robinson, Anti-Muslim Activist, Is Freed on Bail in U.K.LONDON — Tommy Robinson, the jailed British far-right activist who has gained the support of figures like Stephen K. Bannon, the former chief strategist for President Trump, was ordered released on bail on Wednesday, after challenging his conviction for contempt of court.

Mr. Robinson was arrested in May after he broadcast live video from outside a criminal trial in Leeds, England, which had a news media blackout.

He was sentenced to 13 months in prison for contempt of court, provoking an international outcry in far-right circles.

On Wednesday, the Court of Appeal ordered his release, pending a new hearing in his case.

Who is Tommy Robinson?

Anti-Muslim activist

Mr. Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon, is the founder of the English Defense League, an anti-Islam and anti-immigration movement.

Born and raised in Luton, north of London, he worked at the town’s international airport but lost that job for assaulting an off-duty police officer. He was also arrested after being accused of inciting soccer violence, as a supporter to the Luton soccer club.

In 2012, he was jailed for attempting to enter the United States on somebody else’s passport, and broke ties with the movement he had created. When released from prison, he briefly collaborated with an anti-extremism organization in London but soon returned to anti-Islam causes.

He founded a local branch of the German anti-Islam movement, Pegida, which was known for mass demonstrations against Islam in cities in eastern Germany.

A video runs afoul of the law

Mr. Robinson was arrested outside a court in Leeds during the hearing of a case that had a news media blackout, a common practice in England for cases in which judges fear any media reports could influence the outcome of the trials.

Mr. Robinson narrated the video, and attempted to show the defendants entering court.

The judgment said he had broadcast live video on Facebook outside Leeds Crown Court, near the entrance for defendants and jurors on May 25, while the jury retired for deliberation in a criminal case.

In the broadcast, which lasted for more an hour, he spoke about the trial, revealed the identities of the defendants and the charges against them, and confronted some of the defendants as they arrived in court.

He was arrested and pleaded guilty to contempt of court, with the judge, Geoffrey Marson, telling him his actions could cause a mistrial.

“Everyone understands the right to freedom of speech, but there are responsibilities and obligations,” the judge said, adding that an aggravating feature was that Mr. Robinson had encouraged others to share the video.

Mr. Robinson had already had a nearly identical run-in with the law, after he broadcast video during the 2017 trial of four men who were later convicted of gang-raping a teenage girl. In that case, he was also convicted of contempt of court, but received a suspended sentence.

The prison sentence he received this year elevated him to greater prominence among the far right.

“Now he isn’t a far-right provocateur, he is a fearless citizen journalist,” wrote Adam Wagner, a legal expert, for The Guardian.

High-profile supporters

Mr. Robinson held a prominent place among far-right groups, especially in the United States, who argued that his conviction had been in breach of free speech.

“I don’t think Tommy is a bad guy; I think he’s a solid guy; and I think he’s got to be released from prison,” Mr. Bannon said on a British radio talk show in July.

“A lot of people say that that law is way too restrictive. It’s just free speech.”

In response to news of Mr. Robinson’s arrest, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted, “Don’t let America follow in those footsteps.”

Original Article


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