Anti-Islam Dutch politician Geert Wilders has criticized the arrest of Tommy Robinson, who was detained last week after drawing attention to a trial of an alleged Muslim child abuse gang,“ as an attack on free speech.
“I am here because I am shocked and outraged. What happened in the United Kingdom last week is an absolute disgrace,” the Dutch parliamentarian said while standing outside the UK Embassy in the Hague. “Freedom of speech is being violated all over Europe, and also in Britain. The lights of freedom are going out. Islam critics are taken to court, jailed, or targeted with fatwas.”
Calling Robinson a “freedom fighter,” Wilders called on the UK – “once a bastion of freedom of speech” – to stop “behaving like North Korea and Saudi Arabia” and “gagging its people” while Muslims are “pampered, protected and defended.”
Tommy Robinson was jailed on Friday, after live streaming from outside the courthouse in Leeds, initially for “intent to breach the peace,” though he did not have a chance to broadcast anything before he was hauled away. Robinson was then reportedly ordered by the judge to serve out a conditional 13-month sentence for contempt of court, handed down last year for a similar incident, in which he turned up outside a live court hearing as a “citizen reporter.”
Robinson is currently believed to be in Hull Prison, according to social media reports.
The judge ordered a media blackout of the coverage of the case Robinson attended “to avoid a substantial risk to the administration of justice in these proceedings.” More unusually, the details of the Robinson arrest and sentencing itself have also fallen under the media ban, at least until the end of the current trial.
This led to a situation where multiple outlets, including major UK media publications and RT, were forced to delete articles mentioning where he is being kept and for what crime, even if those pieces had no specifics about the proceedings he himself intended to report on.
This appears to have had the opposite of the intended effect, and not only have several outlets left their original pieces on the 35-year-old activist easily accessible, but hundreds of Robinson’s supporters held a widely-covered march on Downing Street on Sunday, demanding his release.
A petition asking Prime Minister Theresa May to free Robinson has collected over 400,000 signatures.
Tommy Robinson latest: UKIP Peer Malcolm Lord Pearson has written to Home Secretary Sajid Javid today saying : if Tommy is murdered or injured in prison he and others will mount a private prosecution against Mr Javid as an accessory, or for misconduct in public office. pic.twitter.com/UMkXqBVLoR
— Gerard Batten MEP (@GerardBattenMEP) May 27, 2018
Robinson’s supporters, which included a UKIP MEP, have criticized the activist’s legally-mandated disappearance from news reports as “Orwellian.” Wilders, who was recently banned from entering the UK despite leading the largest opposition party in the Dutch Parliament, has made a diplomatic inquiry to British authorities over the jailing, particularly expressing concern about Robinson’s safety while in custody.
Even before the latest incident, Tommy Robinson, a moniker of Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon, was a controversial figure, for his nationalist views and multiple brushes with the law. He has been arrested for inciting violence and assault, and served a prison term for mortgage fraud, but in recent years has painted himself as a reformed man seeking peaceful means of protest against immigration and Islamization.