Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 23 May 2019

Bullied Syrian boy seeking damages from far-right leader

Tommy Robinson made false claims about a teenager forced to move home by racists

Tommy Robinson, former head of an anti-Islam protest group, has faced pressure on his ability to raise money. AFP
Tommy Robinson, former head of an anti-Islam protest group, has faced pressure on his ability to raise money. AFP

The lawyers for a Syrian refugee who was violently bullied at school are seeking damages and an apology from a British far-right leader for peddling false accusations about the boy.

The 15-year-old, named only as Jamal, was bullied by a group of boys at a school in Huddersfield, northern England, in an attack that was recorded and went viral on social media in November last year.

Tommy Robinson, the former leader of the far-right English Defence League, falsely claimed that the boy had previously terrorised other students at the school and had sought to defend his attacker.

Jamal and his sister – who was also bullied – were taken out of school after the attack but attempts to remain in the town have failed. Supporters of Mr Robinson stood outside their house and recorded the teenager and the situation became untenable, his lawyer said.

“They call me “little rat” if I go outside,” Jamal was reported as saying. “One of my neighbours threatened me outside my house.”

The family – whose plight led to a crowd-funding appeal that raised more than £170,000 - have now moved to an undisclosed location outside of the area. The children are now seeking to start a new school.

Mr Robinson had previously been warned that he faced legal action for defamation and lawyers for the family said they would soon send officially launch their legal action.

The family is also taking action against Facebook which hosted the site on which Mr Robinson made the claims against the teenager.

He had claimed that Jamal was involved in the violent gang beating of a young English girl, even though her mother said he was not involved. He later retracted some of the allegations.

“We are about to send him a letter of claim and we will see what his response is,” said Tasnime Akunjee, the family’s solicitor. “It’s not just financial, we would be looking for words of apology.”

The family, originally from Homs, fled fighting in Syria in 2016 for a refugee camp in Lebanon before moving to the UK later in the year under a UN resettlement programme.

Mr Robinson, whose former group specialised in street demonstrations against Islam, has a large following online. Since leaving the English Defence League, he has posted messages on YouTube but has seen his fund-raising limited after restrictions imposed by the video-sharing channel and payments giant Paypal

Updated: February 4, 2019 04:09 PM

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