Schoolboy suing Tommy Robinson for libel was taunted at school in ‘campaign of racist bullying’, court hears

Jamal Hijazi, 17, is suing English Defence League founder over allegations he made about Syrian teenager in two Facebook videos

Chiara Giordano
Wednesday 21 April 2021 21:02 BST
Tommy Robinson outside the Royal Courts of Justice, London, for the libel case brought against him by teenager Jamal Hijazi
Tommy Robinson outside the Royal Courts of Justice, London, for the libel case brought against him by teenager Jamal Hijazi (Victoria Jones/PA)

A Syrian schoolboy suing Tommy Robinson for libel was taunted with racist abuse at school and faced death threats during a “campaign of bullying”, according to court documents.

The English Defence League founder - whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon - is being sued by Jamal Hijazi, 17, who was filmed being attacked in the playground at Almondbury School in Huddersfield in November 2018.

Shortly after the video went viral, Mr Robinson claimed in two Facebook videos, which were viewed by nearly one million people, that Jamal was “not innocent and he violently attacks young English girls in his school”.

The 38-year-old also claimed Jamal “beat a girl black and blue” and “threatened to stab” another boy at his school – allegations the teenager denies.

On the first day of the libel trial in London on Wednesday, Jamal's lawyer told the court Mr Robinson's comments “turned Jamal into the aggressor, and the bully into a righteous white knight”.

Catrin Evans QC, representing Jamal, said in written submissions that Mr Robinson's allegations had “a devastating effect on Jamal and his family” and led to them being relocated from the area in early 2019.

The High Court heard how Jamal and his family fled Syria and lived in a refugee camp in Lebanon for three years, before resettling in Huddersfield in October 2016.

In his witness statement, Jamal said he joined Almondbury Community School in the city at the age of 13, with very poor English, and was met with hostility from some other pupils.

Almondbury Community School, in Huddersfield
Almondbury Community School, in Huddersfield (Danny Lawson/PA)

He wrote: "I faced a lot of issues when I was at the school, including a campaign of bullying and attempts by other students to make me unhappy, so I would go home.

"I was called names which at first I did not understand.

"My Syrian friend explained to me what these words meant and suggested I should report these incidents to a teacher because the names were racist.

"I refer below to a gang of students who regularly bullied me. They often called me 'Paki', 'Syrian' or 'immigrant' in an aggressive way."

Jamal said the attack in the viral video was not isolated and detailed other incidents, including being threatened with a knife in November 2017.

He said his sister Fariha was also bullied, referencing an incident where her hijab was deliberately removed by another student.

In his statement to the court, Jamal's father, Jihad Hijazi, wrote: "This was the worst experience I have been through in my life.

"I wished I had died in the war with my family and not seen my children suffer from bullying."

Jamal also said in his statement he had "no idea" about Mr Robinson before the Facebook videos were made.

He added: "His job has been explained to me by both my litigation friend and my solicitors, but I still do not fully understand what he does.

"I understand that a part of what he does is to make content and that the more attention it gets, the more money and support he can gain."

Mr Robinson, who is representing himself at the trial, is defending his comments on the basis that they are substantially true.

In written submissions, he said he had "uncovered dozens of accounts of aggressive, abusive and deceitful behaviour by the claimant, including acts which speak the truth to the matters complained of".

The eight-day trial is expected to hear evidence from Jamal and Mr Robinson, as well as pupils and staff at the time of the incident.

The trial before Mr Justice Nicklin is due to conclude next Friday and it is expected he will give his ruling at a later date.

Additional reporting by PA

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