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Tommy Robinson sued by Syrian schoolboy he accused of assault

The Guardian logo The Guardian 15/05/2019 Nazia Parveen North of England correspondent
a man wearing a suit and tie: Tommy Robinson claimed on Facebook that Jamal Hijazi, 16, had ‘violently attacked young English girls’. © AFP/Getty Images Tommy Robinson claimed on Facebook that Jamal Hijazi, 16, had ‘violently attacked young English girls’.

The Syrian schoolboy who was filmed being attacked in a playground in Huddersfield is suing the far-right campaigner Tommy Robinson for accusing him of assaulting white schoolgirls.

Jamal Hijazi, 16, has filed papers to the high court seeking libel action against the founder of the English Defence League after he was alleged to have “peddled false and defamatory lies” about the schoolboy.

Footage of the refugee student being pushed to the ground and having water poured on his face was watched millions of times and attracted widespread condemnation, including from Theresa May, in December.

Read more: Alleged attacker of Syrian schoolboy 'scared for his life' (The Telegraph)

In May this year a 16-year-old boy, who cannot be identified, was given a caution for racially aggravated assault on Jamal.

The anti-Islam activist, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, reposted a screenshot of a message on his Facebook page from a mother claiming her daughter had been bullied. However, the mother later posted on Robinson’s page denying that Jamal had attacked her daughter.

In a series of posts Robinson accused Jamal of “not being that innocent” and claimed that he had “hit a girl with a hockey stick” and that “lots of Muslim gangs are beating up white English kids” in Britain. Robinson’s Facebook page had more than 1 million followers and the posts on the Huddersfield incident were viewed up to 900,000 times each.

Robinson said: “He violently attacked young English girls in his school. Why is this kid being portrayed as the ultimate victim in the entire country?”

Watch: Tommy Robinson arrives at the Old Bailey ahead of contempt ruling (The Independent)

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Facebook deleted several of Robinson’s videos for violating community standards after Jamal’s family announced their intention to sue in November.

Robinson was subsequently banned from Facebook and Instagram for repeatedly breaking policies on hate speech. Facebook said he had broken rules that ban public calls for violence against people based on protected characteristics, rules that ban supporting or appearing with organised hate groups, and policies that prevent people from using the site to bully others.

Members of the public have donated £10,300 to help fund the most recent legal action against Robinson.

Jamal said that following Robinson’s posts, he and his family had faced increasing threats and had been forced to move out of Huddersfield.

Watch: Tommy Robinson in 'corrupt media' rant amid calls for YouTube to ban him (The Independent)

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He added: “He has broken the law and I hope they [the courts] agree with us. When he put those posts up he was giving people the wrong idea about me and I was really worried because people were thinking: ‘Jamal is not a good person.’

“After he posted the video we were very scared and we got lots of threats from people because of what he said about me hitting those girls. I had never even spoken to these girls but people in the area started threatening us.”

Tasnime Akunjee, a solicitor who represents Jamal and his family, said: “We are lodging Jamal’s claim for damages as against Yaxley-Lennon with the court today. The claim flows from defamatory comments made by Yaxley-Lennon about Jamal in the latter part of 2018.”

Two high court judges said on Tuesday that fresh proceedings can be brought against Robinson for alleged contempt of court over the filming of people involved in a criminal trial.

Watch: How UKIP normalised far-right politics (The Guardian)

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Robinson was jailed in May last year after he filmed people outside Leeds crown court and broadcast the footage on social media. The court of appeal quashed the contempt finding in August and he was freed after serving two months of his 13-month sentence.

The case was referred back to the attorney general, who said in March that it was in the public interest to bring fresh proceedings against Robinson.

Robinson could be sent back to jail if he is again found in contempt, which carries a maximum sentence of two years. He is standing as a candidate for MEP for the north-west region in the European elections next week.

Robinson has been contacted for a comment.

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