- Matthew Lloyd/Getty
- Tommy Robinson, a right-wing activist supported by Donald Trump Jr. and Steve Bannon, was granted bail from a British court on Wednesday.
- Robinson is a right-wing, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, and pro-free speech activist.
- He was sentenced to 13 months in prison after streaming on Facebook Live an ongoing court trial where reporters were banned from tweeting or recording.
- Donald Trump Jr and Steve Bannon have both expressed their support for Robinson in the past.
- Robinson is not free forever – a fresh hearing of the case will happen with a different judge.
Tommy Robinson, a British right-wing activist supported by Donald Trump Jr and Steve Bannon, was granted bail from prison after a court hearing on Wednesday.
Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, was sentenced to 13 months in prison earlier this year for broadcasting details of an ongoing trial of an alleged child grooming gang on Facebook Live.
The broadcast breached UK law, as the courts had put in place an order mandating that the trial not be reported until proceedings had finished. This is relatively common in the UK for sensitive cases.
His 13-month sentence was a combination of ten months for his Facebook Live stream outside Leeds Crown Court, and three months for breaching the terms of a previously suspended sentence, when he was found in contempt of court for a broadcast from a rape trial in Canterbury, southeast England.
In the UK, “contempt of court” means you have violated the rules of court proceedings by compromising the integrity of the trial. Professional reporters go to some lengths to comply with legal rulings, which can mandate that people’s identities are withheld from publication, or other details not published.
On Wednesday, Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett found that there had been technical legal issues with the previous judge who sentenced Robinson, and directed that Robinson face the contempt of court charge with a new judge.
Until then, Burnett said, he could be released on bail.
- Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images
Robinson was until 2013 the leader of the English Defence League, an anti-Islam, pro-free speech group that claims that English traditions and values are disappearing.
Robinson left the group, claiming that he could no longer keep the group’s extremist elements at bay, but continued to crusade agains Muslims and immigrants.
Earlier this year Robinson’s case and prison sentence garnered heightened media attention after Steve Bannon and Donald Trump Jr expressed their support for the British activist.
In May, the US president’s son used Robinson’s imprisonment to attack critics of Trump’s agenda, saying: “Don’t let America follow in those footsteps.”
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) May 27, 2018
Bannon also told Nigel Farage, a lead architect in the Brexit campaign, on the UK’s LBC station 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.”
He was then caught in an off-air rant to Farage as saying: “Tommy Robinson is the f—ing backbone of this country.”
You can hear Bannon in this clip, which was obtained by BuzzFeed News:
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
Police had to separate Robinson’s supporters, who were celebrating the activist’s bail, from anti-racism demonstrators outside the London court on Wednesday. Robinson was not present in court.
- Peter Nicholls/Reuters