Syrian Teenager Suing Tommy Robinson Seeking At Least £150,000 Damages
A Syrian teenager who is suing far-right activist Tommy Robinson for libel is seeking at least £150,000 in damages.
Footage of 17-year-old Jamal Hijazi being attacked at his school went viral in 2018, prompting shock and condemnation from people across the country, including then-prime minister Theresa May.
A teenager was given a caution for common assault of Hijazi, as the video showed him being pushed to the ground and having water poured on his face, but Robinson claimed that the 17-year-old was ‘not innocent’.
In two videos posted to his Facebook page, Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, further alleged that Hijazi ‘violently attacks young English girls in his school’ and that he once ‘beat a girl black and blue’ in a gang.
Hijazi denied the allegations and sued Robinson for libel, with his lawyer, Catrin Evans QC, calling for ‘substantial damages’ between £150,000 and £190,000 if the teenager wins the claim, The Guardian reports.
The 17-year-old is said to have had to flee the town of Huddersfield after Robinson made the ‘entirely distorted anti-Muslim’ claims about him.
Speaking at a high court case in which Robinson is representing himself, Evans said, ‘In relation to the allegations, which the defendant has sought to prove as substantially true, we suggest that he has not proved either of them.’
Robinson presented himself as an independent journalist throughout the trial, and told the court that the media ‘simply had zero interest in the other side of this story, the uncomfortable truth’.
The trial saw testimony from 18-year-old Charly Matthews, a former student of the school where the video of Hijazi was taken, who claimed the teenager hit her in the back with a hockey stick and left her with long-term injuries.
Per The Independent, Robinson told the court, ‘In order for this claimant to win this case, the court has to believe this young girl is a brazen liar.’
The activist went on to say that Hijazi ‘might have been a victim’, but that it ‘does not automatically mean he himself couldn’t be a nasty, foul-mouthed and often violent young person, particularly against girls and smaller, younger boys’.
Addressing the court in his closing remarks, he said:
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.
My political beliefs are not on trial, it’s whether my reporting on publicly available information was a matter of truth or not.
Meanwhile, Evans argued that Robinson had suggested the case was ‘somehow a travesty of justice and that a white schoolboy has been scapegoated’.
The lawyer went on to highlight a lack of evidence for Robinson’s claims, saying:
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.
Not only has the defendant 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.
Following the trial, Mr. Justice Nicklin said that he would give his judgment at a later date.
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