2018-05-27 13:37:31 UTC
by Bruce Bawer
May 27, 2018 at 5:00 am
The swiftness with which injustice was meted out to Tommy Robinson is
stunning. No, more than that: it is terrifying.
Without having access to his own lawyer, Robinson was summarily tried and
sentenced to 13 months behind bars. He was then transported to Hull Prison.
Meanwhile, the judge who sentenced Robinson also ordered British media not
to report on his case. Newspapers that had already posted reports of his
arrest quickly took them down. All this happened on the same day.
In Britain, rapists enjoy the right to a full and fair trial, the right to
the legal representation of their choice, the right to have sufficient time
to prepare their cases, and the right to go home on bail between sessions of
their trial. No such rights were offered, however, to Tommy Robinson.
The very first time I set foot in London, back in my early twenties, I
kicked up into an adrenaline high that lasted for the entire week of my
visit. Never, in later years, did any other place ever have such an impact
on me -- not Paris, not Rome. Yes, Rome was a cradle of Western
civilization, and Paris a hub of Western culture -- but Britain was the
place where the values of the Anglosphere, above all a dedication to
freedom, had fully taken form. Without Britain, there would have been no
U.S. Declaration of Independence, Constitution, or Bill of Rights.
In recent years, alas, Britain has deviated from its commitment to liberty.
Foreign critics of Islam, such as the American scholar Robert Spencer, and
for a time, even the Dutch Parliamentarian Geert Wilders have been barred
from the country. Now, at least one prominent native critic of Islam, Tommy
Robinson, has been repeatedly harassed by the police, railroaded by the
courts, and left unprotected by prison officials who have allowed Muslim
inmates to beat him senseless. Clearly, British authorities view Robinson as
a troublemaker and would like nothing more than to see him give up his
fight, leave the country (as Ayaan Hirsi Ali left the Netherlands), or get
killed by a jihadist (as happened to the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh).
On Friday, as reported here yesterday, the saga of Tommy Robinson entered a
new chapter. British police officers pulled him off a street in Leeds,
where, in his role as a citizen journalist, he was livestreaming a Facebook
video from outside a courthouse. Inside that building, several defendants
were on trial for allegedly being part of a so-called "grooming gang" -- a
group of men, almost all Muslim, who systematically rape non-Muslim
children, in some cases hundreds of them, over a period of years or decades.
Some ten thousand Facebook viewers around the world witnessed Robinson's
Pictured: Police officers pull Tommy Robinson (center) off a street in
Leeds, England, where, in his role as a citizen journalist, he was
livestreaming a Facebook video from outside a courthouse. (Image source:
TommyRobinson.online video screenshot)
The police promptly dragged Robinson in front of a judge, where, without
having access to his own lawyer, he was summarily tried and sentenced to 13
months behind bars. He was then transported to Hull Prison.
Meanwhile, the judge who sentenced him also ordered the British media not to
report on his case. Newspapers that had already posted reports of his arrest
quickly took them down. Even ordinary citizens who had written about the
arrest on social media removed their posts, for fear of sharing Robinson's
fate. All this happened on the same day.
A kangaroo court, then a gag order. In the United Kingdom, rapists enjoy the
right to a full and fair trial, the right to the legal representation of
their choice, the right to have sufficient time to prepare their cases, and
the right to go home on bail between sessions of their trial. No such rights
were offered, however, to Tommy Robinson.
The swiftness with which injustice was meted out to Robinson is stunning.
No, more than that: it is terrifying. On various occasions over the years, I
have been subjected in person to an immediate threat of Islamic violence: I
have had a knife pulled on me by a young gang member, and been encircled by
a crowd of belligerent men in djellabas outside a radical mosque. But that
was not frightening. This is frightening -- this utter violation of
fundamental British freedoms.
From one perspective, to be sure, Robinson's lightning-fast arrest, trial,
and jailing should not have come as a surprise. "There has been a campaign
to 'get Tommy' -- or what looks remarkably like it -- for some time," a
source in the UK told me Saturday morning.
The apparent justification for Robinson's arrest is that he was on a
suspended sentence. In May of last year, he was taken into custody while
reporting from outside a courthouse in Kent, where another group of Muslim
defendants was being tried, also on "grooming" charges. That arrest was also
unjustified. At least, however, Robinson was given a suspended sentence.
This time, presumably, it was determined that the mere act of reporting yet
again from outside another courthouse amounted to a violation of the terms
of his suspended sentence.
The official cynicism here is obvious. The UK source made a vital point:
that often, when one of these "grooming gang" trials is being held, the
extended families and friends of the defendants stand outside the courthouse
and "heckle and intimidate" the rape victims as well as their families and
supporters. "I've had reports of children as young as five throwing stones
at victims' families," the source said.
"This intimidation by extended community groups also involves going around
to houses and harassing people... I've even heard that inside the court
building, witnesses for the prosecution have needed police protection to go
to the bathroom."
Needless to say, this heckling and harassment is rarely reported on and
One potentially positive aspect of this ugly turn of events is that it
turned heads that should have been turned long ago. The UK source noted that
many of her Twitter contacts "were tweeting that they didn't necessarily
support Tommy in general but were appalled that someone reporting these
[grooming] crimes was arrested." Some of her acquaintances, she said, "are
stunned and in despair." On Saturday, thousands of Robinson's supporters
rallied in Westminster. But will such public protests make any difference?
One British ex-cop reacted to Robinson's incarceration with a video urging
his fellow countrymen not just to march or rally but to join Ann Marie
Waters' party For Britain and do for freedom of speech in Britain what UKIP
did to get British out of the EU.
While Robinson is being punished for drawing attention to Muslim rape gangs,
the Sikh Awareness Society, which has also reported on these "grooming"
trials, is left alone. "They are a godsend," said the source, "because they
pull no punches yet don't seem to get the intimidation that people like
Tommy get." Of course -- British police would not dare arrest a bearded man
in a turban. The source also mentioned an imam who was arrested recently
only to be let go by police after "a large group of supporters demanded his
release." At least one police officer acknowledged that the imam had been
freed because otherwise "they would have been facing riots all around the
country." The source summed up British authorities' current approach to the
Islamic situation as follows: "they have lost control... and are simply
going for those who they think will make the least fuss. The classroom bully
has terrorised the teacher into punishing the kids who are bullied."
One assumes that the officials think that perpetrating this kind of
injustice will somehow keep the peace. If I were one of their number, I
would not be so certain. The people at that Westminster rally on Saturday
were angry. How many other British subjects share their anger? The source
expressed concern that this summer in Britain may turn out to be quite
restive. Well, maybe that is all for the good.
Why, however, has not one prominent or powerful individual in all of the
United Kingdom come forward to challenge the mistreatment of Tommy
Robinson -- which is to say, for freedom of speech?
Is the whole British establishment a bunch of cowards? I suppose we will
know the answer to that question soon enough, if we do not know it already.
Bruce Bawer is the author of the new novel The Alhambra (Swamp Fox
Editions). His book While Europe Slept (2006) was a New York Times
bestseller and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. His other books
include A Place at the Table (1993), Stealing Jesus (1997), Surrender
(2009), and The Victims' Revolution (2012). A native New Yorker, he has
lived in Europe since 1998.
See also: Petition to Free Tommy Robinson
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