LONDON (Reuters) - Jailed British far-right activist Tommy Robinson, whose case has attracted the sympathy of right-wing supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump, was released on bail on Wednesday after winning an appeal against a contempt of court ruling.
Robinson, the founder of the English Defence League (EDL) which in the past has staged violent demonstrations against Islam, was arrested in May for making video recordings outside a courthouse which revealed the identities of defendants while jurors were considering their verdicts in an ongoing trial.
Later that day, Robinson, 35, was jailed for 13 months.
Sources told Reuters in July that a representative of U.S. President Donald Trump raised Robinson’s case with Britain’s ambassador to the United States following lobbying by the right-wing Breitbart.com website.
Appeal Court judges on Wednesday ruled that the court process against Robinson in Leeds was flawed as the proceedings were completed too quickly, and that no details of the case against him were put to Robinson. He was sentenced within five hours of recording a Facebook Live about the trial.
“Once the appellant had removed the video from Facebook, there was no longer sufficient urgency to justify immediate proceedings,” judge Ian Burnett wrote in his ruling.
“No particulars of the contempt were formulated nor put to the appellant.”
Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, will be released from custody pending a rehearing, a date for which has yet to be set.
Robinson’s supporters in court clapped when his release was announced. Outside, police kept apart dozens more of them from “Stand up to Racism” activists who were protesting against his release.
The ruling against Robinson in Leeds came after he had earlier in May been handed a suspended sentence for attempting to film defendants at Canterbury Crown Court during a rape trial, actions which the judge said could have derailed the trial.
The judges on Wednesday dismissed an appeal by Robinson against the Canterbury ruling.
Robinson’s lawyers thanked the Court of Appeal for its detailed judgment.
“The rule of law and the right to a fair trial are fundamental to every individual,” Carson Kaye solicitors said in a statement.
“This ruling (is) an example of the procedural safeguards of our system, and its potential for protecting every citizen equally.”
Writing by Alistair Smout and Sarah Young; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky