Tommy Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon, is a British right-winged, Islamophobic activist, with a fan following of the likes of Steve Bannon and Donald Trump.
On Wednesday, Robinson appealed his court sentence of 13 months in prison for court contempt and was granted bail from prison.
His far right supporters cried with joy and chanted “Tommy is free” and “Tommy’s coming home” to the tune of England football anthem “Three Lions.”
However, anti-racism supporters do not believe the court’s decision was right and shouted “Nazi scum, off our streets” and “refugees are welcome here.”
To understand why Robinson received such varied welcomes, we need to find out who the man exactly is.
In 2009, Robinson cofounded an organization, the English Defense League (EDL), which, as the names suggests is an ultra-nationalist, anti-Islam movement.
BBC correspondent Dominic Casciani explained “Now, the EDL was the counter organization to what they saw as the threat posed by Islamist extremist in their hometown and it grew very, very rapidly across the U.K.”
During his time with the EDL, Robinson wasarrested multiple times for assault and other charges. One such case landed him in HM Prison Bedford, where the anti-Islam campaigner went on a hunger strike, stating he would not eat food he deemed “halal.”
He was also jailed in 2012 for going to the United States illegally using another person’s passport and later for committing a mortgage fraud.
In October 2013, Robinson announced he was leaving the organization, claiming he was concerned about the threat of far-right violence in the country — much of it coming from him and his own supporters — stating it was not what he intended. However, his crusade against immigrants, especially Muslims, continued.
Fast forward four years and Robinson was caught outside the Canterbury Court streaming an ongoing trial of a child trafficking gang, accused of raping a drunken 16-year-old girl, on Facebook Live.
As four of the suspects walked into court, Robinson live-streamed them and spoke about the trial. He even filmed himself being arrested by the police. His video was quickly taken down, however, not before it got 250,000 views.
His broadcast broke U.K.’s law that mandates a trial not be reported until it is finished over concerns it could comprise the integrity of the procedure and introduce bias. This is quite common in the country for sensitive or highly controversial cases.
As it was his first offense of the kind, the court gave Robinson a three-month jail sentence. It was suspended for 18 months with the condition he did not commit any more offenses.
However, just a year later, Robinson did the same thing, this time outside a court in Leeds. He was immediately jailed this time for a combined 13 months for the transgression of live-streaming outside the Leeds Court and for his previous three-month suspended sentence.
His supporters, including Party for Freedom Leader Geert Wilders, said he was arrested to curb free speech. However, critics said that is not the case. It is about the right to a fair hearing; something that Robinson does not seemed to be too concerned over.
His prison sentence made a lot of headlines after President Donald Trump and former chief strategist Steve Bannon showed him their support.
Bannon also told former UKIP leader Nigel Farage in July, "I don't think he's a bad guy. I think he's a solid guy and I think he's got to be released from prison."
“Tommy Robinson is the f---ing backbone of this country,” he was later caught saying.
Here's the explosive audio of Steve Bannon's tirade at an LBC journalist after his interview with Nigel Farage. BuzzFeed News has learned the station may face an investigation from the broadcast regulator over the interview. https://t.co/5Ycvmn0PnT pic.twitter.com/303A2GHf1w— BuzzFeed UK (@BuzzFeedUK) July 20, 2018
Two weeks ago, Robinson appealed to the court against his 13-month sentence for contempt of court, stating his hearing was unfair and the punishment was “excessive.”
His argument was successful and the Court of Appeal’s Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett and two other judges in London overturned his conviction saying jailing Robinson within five hours did not give him the chance to defend himself properly. They also criticized Judge Geoffrey Marson QC, claiming he gave “no clarity” to what part of Robinsons’ video were in contempt of court.
Robinson has opened up about his prisons sentence, which he said was akin to torture.
“What they tried to do was to mentally destroy me. That wasn't a prison sentence, that was mental torture. If I was bitter and angry I would accept my own victimhood. I'm not their victim, I'm their target,” he said.
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