LONDON: A Syrian teenager suing British far-right activist Tommy Robinson for libel is seeking at least £150,000 ($208,000) in damages, the High Court has heard.
Robinson is being sued by 17-year-old Jamal Hijazi after he claimed that the student attacked English girls at school.
Hijazi was filmed being beaten at his school in Huddersfield, northern England, in October 2018. The video exploded online.
Robinson, who has represented himself at the trial, claimed in two separate videos posted on his Facebook page that Hijazi was “not innocent and he violently attacks young English girls in his school.” The videos received over 870,000 views.
Catrin Evans QC, representing Hijazi, told the court that there should be “substantial damages” of up to £190,000 for the teenager if his legal challenge is successful.
“In relation to the allegations which the defendant has sought to prove as substantially true, we suggest that he has not proved either of them,” she said.
Robinson, 38, told the court: “The media simply had zero interest in the other side of this story, the uncomfortable truth. I am far from perfect, however this case is not about me, as much as the claimant’s representatives would like to make me, my history or my views a focus of their attention.”
He defended himself as an independent citizen journalist, arguing: “My political beliefs are not on trial, it’s whether my reporting on publicly available information was a matter of truth or not.”
Providing evidence for Robinson’s case, student Charly Matthews, 18, claimed that Hijazi hit her in the back with a hockey stick. She told the court that the attack left her with long-term injuries.
Robinson said: “In order for this claimant to win this case, the court has to believe this young girl is a brazen liar.”
In one of the videos, Robinson claimed that Hijazi “beat a girl black and blue” in a gang and bit a student. Hijazi has denied these allegations.
Evans argued that Robinson suggested “that this is somehow a travesty of justice and that a white schoolboy has been scapegoated.”
She pointed out that although Robinson lacked evidence to back his claims, Hijazi had given “clear and consistent evidence.”
She added: “We do rely on the defendant’s agenda, which we say is an anti-Muslim one, which is why he waded into this. Jamal was the victim of that.
“Not only has the defendant sought to try and prove a case that he was never going to be able to do, but even in his closing submissions, he has continued to exacerbate the hurt and distress the claimant has experienced.
“These are allegations of criminal offenses or tantamount to criminal offenses, and it is quite clear that Jamal is the victim here.”