Syrian refugee suing Tommy Robinson for over £150,000 in libel damages
A Syrian refugee is suing Tommy Robinson for a minimum £150,000 in damages after the far-right British activist's "distorted anti-muslim message" led to death threats against the teenage refugee and his family.
Jamal Hijazi, aged 17, was filmed in October 2018 being attacked in his school's playground in Huddersfield, when he was 14. The video showed another pupil from Almondbury Community School pushing Hijazi to the ground and pouring water on him.
Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, later claimed in two videos that Hijazi was "not innocent" and accused him of attacking "young English girls in his school".
Catrin Evans, who is representing Hijazi, said Robinson "falsely accused Jamal...without any direct knowledge of the events in question".
She said Robinson's allegations had a "devastating effect on Jamal" and, in her closing arguments at trial, said the teenager planned to sue the far-right activist for at least £150,000 ($208,522).
“We do rely on the defendant’s agenda, which we say is an anti-Muslim one, which is why he waded into this. Jamal was the victim of that,” Evans told the court.
“Not only has the defendant [Robinson] sought to try and prove a case that he was never going to be able to do, but he has even, in his closing submissions, continued to exacerbate the hurt and distress the claimant has experienced.”
Hijazi, who fled the Syrian city of Homs in 2016, told the court on the first day of the trial that he "couldn't sleep for two nights" after the video of him being bullied went viral.
“I am far from perfect. However, this case is not about me, as much as the claimant’s representatives would like to make me, my history or my views a focus of their attention,” Hijazi said in his closing remarks.
"I am a positive person and always have been [and] I want to correct people's opinions who have just watched the video, so that they know I am not the person the defendant says I am."
Robinson, meanwhile, who co-founded the English Defence League, chose to represent himself in court and defended the comments made in his videos.
In his closing remarks, Robinson admitted that Hijazi's school had failings, but that racism was not one of them. He added that Hijazi "might have been a victim" but that it does not automatically mean he himself could not be a "nasty, foul-mouthed, and often violent young person".
The court is expected to give its judgment at a later date.