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Jailing Tommy Robinson is a Direct Assault on Freedom of Expression

3. september 2018 - International - af Aia Fog and Michael Pihl, Chairman and Board Member, the Free Press Society

Foto: tommyrobinson.online

Many aspects of the Tommy Robinson case should cause all manner of alarm bells to sound.  There is very good reason to take interest in this case, for this can turn out to be the proverbial canary in the coal mine.

Many were angered – and rightfully so - in England, Europe and the United States, when the British freedom of expression activist and Islam-critic Tommy Robinson was, in the course of just five hours, arrested, convicted and sentenced to 13 months in prison.  The conviction read “Contempt of court”, because he had been live streaming from a location outside the court in Leeds, whilst reporting on a rape case. After his conviction, he was immediately transported to Hull prison for incarceration.

According to his proponents, the verdict is wrong, and the jailing of Tommy Robinson is in actual fact due to the British authorities desiring to shut up a critic for his reporting inconvenient truths about the developments currently afoot in Great Britain.

The authorities and the mainstream media, hereunder also the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten, however, disagree.  They purport that Robinson had been duly warned, and that jailing him was merely an instance of effective upholding of the law. The sentiment amongst these instances is that the only possible relevant aspect of this case is as a textbook example of how “Fake News” can rapidly whip up strong emotions.

The latter is a severe misrepresentation of the case, and it most does not constitute “Fake News”, although it is quite a bit more complicated than most – and that includes proponents as well as opponents of Tommy Robison – have presented it.

Let us therefore go through the background for the recent jailing:

Back in June 2017, Robinson received a 3 months suspended sentence for contempt of court, with a probationary period of 18 months. He had been filming some accused Pakistani men standing in front of the Canterbury court building, in a case connected to the rape allegations in the so-called “Grooming Scandal”.

During re reporting, he had expressed an opinion about their guilt by asking them questions such as “Why do you rape English girls?” before the accused individuals had been convicted.

On this occasion, Robinson was certainly out of line.

The question then is this: Was that also the case on Friday 25th of May in front of the Leeds court building?

Was he acting in such a manner that one could say, without doubt, that his reporting constituted an attempt to influence the jurors, or interference with a fair trial and due process?

The only possible response to this question is a clear-cut ‘No’.

Anyone who has seen the reporting that Tommy Robinson did from Leeds would have to agree that it did not constitute an attempt to interfere with the court proceedings. The judge who convicted Robinson could have ascertained this personally, by taking the time to go through the video reporting done by Mr. Robinson.

The absurd claim behind jailing Robinson for more than a year – that being that his mere presence and peaceful reporting outside the court building would influence jurors and due process – is obviously bizarre: Robinson only gave information that was, at that time, already freely available to anyone reading public information available from the court. He was furthermore not physically close to the jurors, and in no manner whatsoever made attempts to influence the courts’ decision.

Quite the contrary, Robinson showed great care in his reporting by repeatedly using the term “alleged criminals” about the defendants. On a similar note, the questions he asked outside the court building to the men accused of rape were only open questions, such as “How do you feel about the charges against you?” and “Are you feeling any remorse?” The latter question was the one that the judge, unreasonably claimed to constitute an attempt to influence due process and take the position on the question of guilt – in advance.

Even if one accepts the ridiculous claim that any reporting made standing on a public road in front of a British court building inherently constitutes a “substantial risk” of influencing an ongoing case, the treatment of Robinson is unprecedented: Nobody has ever been sentenced to a 13-month prison sentence for violating this type of ban.

To make a comparison, if someone is given a suspended sentence for breaking the speed limit, he is obviously only to be jailed if he breaks the law again. Merely sitting down in the driver’s seat during a probationary period would not be sufficient reason to place him under arrest. Likewise, Tommy Robinson should only be convicted of an offence if his suspended conviction for contempt of court is followed by more similar behavior that has the potential to influence due process at court.

There are many circumstances surrounding the case against Tommy Robinson that should sound all manner of alarm.  The very fact that Robinson was convicted in a summary trial – witnesses say that the case was over in just a few minutes – together with the refusal to let him choose his own defense are, by any measure, scandals against the rule of law.

But why, one might ask, would the British authorities be so keen on persecuting Tommy Robinson? There is no doubt that Robinson is a thorn in the side of the British authorities, whom he brazenly has confronted with the consequences of the failed British multicultural experiment. That very much includes those awful grooming scandals.

Over the last few years, Great Britain has experienced a series of rather gruesome rape cases against young girls, taking place in the Muslim immigrant heavy parts of society. It has subsequently been discovered that the police, the legal system, and the social authorities had made extensive politically motivated efforts to hide the true extent of these sexual crimes from the general public.

This was due to a fear of offending the Muslim immigrant parts of society by appearing to be racist.  It would therefore appear that those in power in Britain had, for political reasons, consciously suppressed information about violence and crimes perpetrated against young, vulnerable women.

This is also the opinion of Tommy Robinson, and he has not exactly been quiet about it - just like he continuously and fearlessly has pointed out the significant problems with Islam, multiculturalism and integration that Britain now suffers.

All in all, this has made him a hugely controversial character – hated by Islamists and so-called “Anti-fascists” alike – Anti-fascists are always on the spot to create violence and trouble when Robinson speaks in public.

But rather than cracking down on those actually creating the unrest – Islamists and “Antifa” – the authorities have perpetually aimed for the “easy out” which is to shut him up for speaking the inconvenient and incontrovertible truth. The recent conviction of Robinson looks like yet another attempt by the British authorities to, in a very authoritarian manner, violate his right to free expression, in order to deprive both him, and those for whom he speaks, from having a public voice.

This is, however, far from the first case of harassment he has endured at the hand of the authorities: In 2014, he was convicted and sentenced to 18 months of prison for having given incorrect banking information regarding a mortgage - a rather brutal punishment for a minor offence. Robinson warned the prison authorities against placing him in a cell with Muslim extremists – which the authorities did despite the warning: He was placed in the Woodhill prison in a cell with violent Islamists who – as soon as the cell door shut closed – assaulted him and attempted to kill him.

When he, in 2014, was invited to speak at the student society at Oxford University, his social advisor and municipal handler, Sue Beaumont, insisted on limiting what he could, or rather could not, say. In particular, she tried to keep him from saying anything about Islam. Later, she put pressure on him to abstain entirely from participating in the event, by implying that they might consider forcibly removing his children, based on her claim that they had some mysterious wounds on their knees.

The police have repeatedly attempted to put pressure on him by harassing him in front of his wife and his children: In connection with the case last year at the Court of Canterbury, the police woke up the entire family at 3 o’clock in the middle of the night, in order to arrest Robinson in front of his wife and his terrified kids. This is entirely unheard of, considering such a minor offence, and the non-existing risk of attempting to escape trial.

The police also showed up at a pub where Robinson was having dinner with his family before going to watch a soccer match. In spite of Robinson’s protests, and the pub owner insisting that Robinson was a peaceful guest, he was evicted from the pub.

Let it be said. The imprisonment of Tommy Robinson is a direct assault on fundamental principles for rule of law – not least freedom of expression. This assault is even greater because it originates from the authorities, the police and the justice system, who have as their primary responsibility to defend citizens against arbitrary rule and violations thereof.

All of this taken into consideration, there is every reason to follow the case against Tommy Robinson very closely, for it can easily turn out to be the proverbial canary in the coal mine. It is a clear example of what can happen when authorities – due to a mix of ill-conceived respect for Muslim sentiment and fear of terrorism – are willing to sacrifice everything in order to maintain peace and order.

Freedom of expression may very well be one of the sacrifices in this process.