Libel case against Tommy Robinson over bullied Syrian refugee comments reaches High Court

Robinson attended a preliminary hearing in London on Thursday, which set a timetable for a six-day trial to be heard at some point in 2020. Picture: PA
Robinson attended a preliminary hearing in London on Thursday, which set a timetable for a six-day trial to be heard at some point in 2020. Picture: PA
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A libel case against Tommy Robinson over comments about a Syrian refugee who was filmed being attacked in a school playground has reached the High Court.

A video showing Jamal Hijazi, then 16, being pushed to the ground and threatened with drowning at Almondbury School in Huddersfield provoked outrage and a flood of public sympathy after it was shared online last year.

English Defence League founder Robinson, 36, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, later commented about the video on Facebook.

Robinson attended a preliminary hearing in London on Thursday, which set a timetable for a six-day trial to be heard at some point in 2020.

Jamal's barrister Ian Helme told the court that the claim was brought in relation to the aftermath of "the viral publication of a video last year in which Jamal was horrifically bullied at school".

Mr Helme added that Robinson, who he described as "a right-wing provocateur", then published "two videos making very serious allegations against Jamal".

The barrister said Jamal was "a schoolboy and a Syrian refugee who has faced horrific bullying at school", adding that the effect of the videos was that he "now has his nascent reputation trashed to one million people".

The court heard that Robinson would defend the truth of the statements he made about Jamal at trial.

William Bennett QC, for Robinson, said the case would come down to the "oral testimony of one witness against another".

He added that his client's defence would focus on "those people who say they were assaulted by the claimant and the claimant's denials that he assaulted them".

In documents filed with the court on Robinson's behalf, he alleges that the attack on Jamal shown in the video was in retaliation for a threat made earlier that same day.

The value of Jamal's claim in damages is for up to £100,000.