Tommy Robinson libel trial: EDL founder says he is 'not racist'

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Image source, PA Media
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Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, known as Tommy Robinson, is representing himself at the trial at the Royal Courts of Justice

Tommy Robinson has said he is "not racist" as a libel claim brought against him by a Syrian teenager continues at the High Court.

The English Defence League founder, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, is being sued by Jamal Hijazi.

The teenager was filmed being attacked in the playground at Almondbury School in Huddersfield in October 2018.

Mr Yaxley-Lennon, 38, denies libelling Jamal by falsely claiming he had attacked "young English girls".

He is defending the comments, made in two Facebook videos, on the basis they are substantially true.

Mr Yaxley-Lennon, who is representing himself, began his case by saying he had been mischaracterised by the claimant's legal team.

"Their opening statement, which was a blatant attack on my character, is boringly predictable," he said.

He said the EDL was classed as centrist and he had worked with an anti-extremism group for five years.

"For what it's worth, I am not racist, and I am certainly not anti-Muslim," he said.

He said it was important people had a "balanced view" of the video, given that nearly £160,000 had been donated to support Jamal Hijazi by the public.

"I only reported what I was told. That is all I'm doing here in this court, looking for the truth," he said.

'Strange boy'

Bailey McLaren, the boy shown pushing Jamal to the ground in the original video, said in evidence he was not a bully,

"I would say that if I was physical, I would have to be provoked into it. There would have to be a reason and it would have to a strong reason," the 18-year-old said.

Mr Yaxley-Lennon asked Mr Mclaren if he was a bully.

"No. I can't stand bullying - from a young age I was affected by it," he replied.

"The mainstream media painted it out that I was a bully."

He also said the incident with Jamal had nothing to do with race.

Mr McLaren said in his witness statement that Jamal was a "strange boy".

"Pupils and staff alike were fully aware that Jamal had a real problem with girls and even with female staff and that he was abusive towards them," he wrote.

"You would hear from time to time that Jamal was bullying young girls and stuff."

He said he had confronted Jamal, who had sworn at him.

Mr Maclaren said he was told by another student that Jamal had threatened to stab him, which the teenager denies.

Representing Jamal, Catrin Evans QC said Mr McLaren was "regularly in trouble" for serious bullying which included intimidation and physical assaults.

"I'm not trying to claim I'm an angel, I had incidents in school," Mr McLaren said.

"I do agree that I'm quite hot-headed, but I've changed."

The court heard he was permanently excluded and accepted a police caution for assaulting Jamal after the incident.

Ms Evans said Mr McLaren was part of a gang of students who often targeted Jamal.

"Jamal was one of your regular victims of bullying and you were the ringleader of the group that bullied him," she said.

Mr McLaren said: "I think if anyone was the bully, it was Jamal."

The case continues.

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