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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 22 August 2018

Anti-Muslim activist Tommy Robinson freed from prison on bail

The English Defence League founder was jailed in May for interfering with a criminal court case

Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon, also known as Tommy Robinson, is escorted away by police from a Britain First march and an English Defence League march in central London in April 2017. AFP
Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon, also known as Tommy Robinson, is escorted away by police from a Britain First march and an English Defence League march in central London in April 2017. AFP

Tommy Robinson, the founder of the anti-Islam English Defence League movement, has been freed on bail by the UK’s Court of Appeal after being imprisoned in May for interfering in a criminal court case.

Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon, was jailed for 13 months for using social media to broadcast details of a trial in Leeds, north-east England, related to child molestation that was subject to blanket reporting restrictions.

The 35-year-old has received strong support from supporters of far-right causes including Donald Trump’s former strategist Steve Bannon, who last month said that he did not think the former EDL leader was “a bad guy”.

A judge at a London court ruled on Wednesday that the process that convicted Robinson was “fundamentally flawed” as the proceedings were completed too quickly, and that he should be released from jail pending a rehearing.

Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett said: "We are satisfied that the finding of contempt made in Leeds following a fundamentally flawed process, in what we recognise were difficult and unusual circumstances, cannot stand.

"We will direct that the matter be reheard before a different judge."

Robinson’s lawyer Jeremy Dein argued during the appeal proceedings that the contempt of court conviction should be quashed because a "conglomeration of procedural deficiencies" had prejudiced the case.

Judges on Wednesday dismissed an appeal against a suspended sentence handed down to Robinson after he attempted to film defendants outside a court in Canterbury, southern England, earlier in May.

Supporters of the activist had gathered outside of the London courthouse wearing T-shirts with the slogan “Free Tommy Robinson”. Police kept his supporters apart from Stand Up to Racism campaigners who had staged a counter-demonstration against his release.

Robinson, who was not present at the hearing, later left HMP Onley in central England flanked by two supporters.

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In the morning around 20 supporters, outnumbered two to one by police officers, chanted his name outside court.

"I'm very very happy, he's going home to his family," said supporter Dean Henry, 53.

Around 20 or so counter-protesters were also present, chanting "Nazi scum, off our streets".

"We want to stop Tommy Robinson, I'd like to see him in prison for life for what he is and what he does,.. there is no free speech for fascists," said anti-racist campaigner Mary.

"The danger is that the fascists, who are the hardcore of all this, will spread their venom to the right wing who don't like migrants."

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