In Brief

Can US groups get Tommy Robinson out of jail?

Right-wing American groups bankrolling campaign to secure release of English Defence League founder

US right-wing groups have joined forces to launch a campaign to secure the release of Tommy Robinson, according to reports.

The English Defence League (EDL) founder, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, was jailed for 13 months in May for live-streaming outside a court, in breach of reporting restrictions on an ongoing trial.

The anti-Islam activist’s arrest and imprisonment has been seen as an enfringement on basic rules regarding freedom of speech and has “led to US right-wing groups converging to support him”, says The Guardian

The drive is being led by the Middle East Forum, a Philadelphia-based conservative think tank, which recently “spent a five-figure sum” on Robinson’s legal defence, according to the newspaper. Gregg Roman, a director of the organisation, said: “It’s not that we agree with Robinson’s views, but we do defend his right to articulate them.

“We are focused on ensuring that there can be a robust discussion of the pros and cons of different elements of Islamic thought in Western liberal democracies.”

The group also say that it is aware of “up to four other similar organisations bankrolling a high-profile campaign to release” Robinson, The Guardian adds.

Conspiracy theories about his trial have spread on social media, drawing particular attention in the US among supporters of the so-called “alt-right”, The Times of Israel says.

The campaign “spread further after Donald Trump Jr, the president’s son, retweeted a comment about Robinson”, the online newspaper continues. Meanwhile, former White House advisor Steve Bannon recently defended Robinson on London’s LBC radio, reportedly describing him off-mic as the “backbone” of Britain.

The campaign also appears to have bled into diplomatic circles, with public officials now reportedly trading jabs over the fate of the activist.

According to The Independent, Sam Brownback, Trump’s ambassador for international religious freedom, told the UK ambassador to the US that British authorities should be more “sympathetic” to Robinson.

“Brownback even warned Sir Kim Darroch that the Trump administration might publicly criticise the UK’s handling of the case,” the news site says.

The bid to lobby on behalf of Robinson was described as a “disgrace” by anti-racism campaign group Hope not Hate, which added: “We shouldn’t be surprised given Trump’s racists rants this week but this move should shame the White House.”

However, a US State Department spokesperson claimed the “characterisations” of the meeting between Brownback and Darroch were “completely false”.

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