LONDON (Middle East Eye) – An anti-Islam extremist and founder of the far-right English Defence League has been ordered by a British court to pay £100,000 ($137,300) in libel damages to Syrian schoolboy Jamal Hijazi.
The 18-year-old won his case against Tommy Robinson after a two-year court battle that could bankrupt the far-right extremist, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon. He has also been ordered to pay legal costs, which the BBC has reported at around £500,000 ($686,507).
The then 16-year-old Hijazi accused Robinson of spreading false and defamatory statements about him in a series of Facebook posts after the schoolboy was viciously attacked at school by fellow students. A video of the attack in the playground of his British school in October 2018 showed him being pushed to the ground. Students were then seen pouring water on his face in what looked like an attempt to waterboard him.
Shortly after the attack on Hijazi went viral, Robinson claimed in two Facebook videos that the boy was “not innocent and he violently attacks young English girls in his school”. He also claimed that Hijazi had threatened to stab another boy at his school, allegations denied by the Syrian refugee. The clips have been viewed by nearly a million people on social media.
“As was entirely predictable, the claimant then became the target of abuse” said the judge in court, “which ultimately led to him and his family having to leave their home, and the claimant to have to abandon his education. The defendant is responsible for this harm, some of the scars of which, particularly the impact on the claimant’s education, are likely to last for many years, if not a lifetime.”
Dismissing Robinson’s defense, the judge said that the “very serious” allegations made by the 38 year old had not been proven, and that he had used language “calculated to inflame the situation”.
“The defendant’s contribution to this media frenzy was a deliberate effort to portray the claimant as being, far from an innocent victim, but in fact a violent aggressor,” the judge concluded.
In addition to the substantial damages and legal costs, Robinson faces an injunction that will prevent him from repeating the allegations. Following the verdict, he confessed that he is “bankrupt”. It’s not clear how he will be able to pay the damages and costs.