UK appeals court orders far-right activist Robinson released
U.K. judges on Wednesday granted far-right activist Tommy Robinson conditional bail while he appeals a finding of contempt of court for live-streaming outside a criminal trial in violation of reporting restrictions.
Robinson’s supporters cheered after Court of Appeal Judge Ian Burnett and two other judges ordered a fresh hearing. The self-styled commentator who has issued a steady stream of anti-Muslim statements online was jailed outside Leeds Crown Court in May after using social media to broadcast details of a trial that was subject to blanket reporting restrictions.
The court had ordered that no reporting of the trial was allowed until another trial linked to it had concluded. Such restrictions are a common practice in Britain, designed to protect the impartiality of the jury.
Robinson was jailed for 13 months within five hours after posting the video. The court ruled that jailing Robinson so promptly “gave rise to unfairness,” and that the “haste” with which the case was dealt with meant his lawyers weren’t given enough time to prepare.
Robinson, 35, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, is the founder of the now-defunct English Defence League. His supporters alleged he was jailed because of his far-right political beliefs.
News of his arrest had sparked calls on social media for his release, including a demonstration outside the British prime minister’s Downing Street office earlier this year.
A former tanning shop owner, Robinson has given Britain’s far-right media the verve it has lacked in the past. His YouTube channel has accumulated more than 6 million views. Recent videos purport to show him fighting migrants in Italy and being attacked by masked men outside a London McDonalds.
Robinson left the prison n Rugby, Warwickshire, soon after the ruling and was flanked by two men carrying his luggage. He declined to comment to the media about his release.
“I have a lot to say, but not to you. To the British public,” he told reporters. “Why would I have anything to say to you? You’ve lost the faith of the British public.”
Demonstrators in London protested the decision by the court. Weyman Bennett of the Stand Up To Racism group argued that the ruling would encourage racists and Islamophobes to build and organize.
“I believe if he was a black kid from Tottenham, where I’m from, he would still be in jail,” he said. “Although it is dressed up as freedom of speech, it is freedom of hate.”