Sam Brownback, the U.S. Ambassador for International Religious Freedom, complained to the British ambassador in Washington about the treatment of an English right-wing activist who is in jail for disrupting a trial, according to three sources familiar with the discussion who spoke with Reuters.
Brownback made noise about activist Tommy Robinson in a June meeting with Sir Kim Darroch, Britain’s Ambassador to the United States, according to a British official and two sources close to the organizers of a pro-Robinson demonstration planned for London on Saturday.
Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, though he also uses other aliases, is a founder of the English Defense League, which has organized demonstrations against Islamic immigrants in the UK in the past decade, according to Reuters. Robinson calls himself a journalist and campaigner against Islamic extremism, which is how he has contacts with Islamic extremism watchdog groups activists in America.
Robinson was arrested in late May outside a courthouse in Leeds, England, while making video recordings about a trial related to child molestation and jailed for 13 months for violating English law limiting publicity during criminal trials, Reuters reports.
Conservative activists have accused UK government and media of covering up crimes committed by Muslim refuges and Robinson was trying to report on a trial media was ignoring.
Brownback raised the jailing of Robinson during a meeting with Darroch that covered a range of “religious freedom issues”, the British official confirmed earlier this week.
Brownback told Darroch that if Britain did not treat Robinson more sympathetically, the Trump administration might be compelled to criticize Britain’s handling of the case, according to the two sources in contact with organizers of the planned pro-Robinson demonstration.
The sources said Robinson’s supporters, who have also been in touch with the Trump administration about the issue, were concerned that he could be attacked by other prisoners. Sources have reported than Robinson was placed in a prison with predominantly Muslim criminals.
Reuters was unable to determine why the top U.S. official responsible for defending religious freedom would try to intervene with the British government on behalf of an activist who has expressed anti-Islamic views.
Brownback, a former governor of Kansas and former U.S. senator, wasn’t available for a comment, but the U.S. State Department spokesman said the “characterizations” of Brownback’s meeting with Darroch by Reuters sources were “completely false” but the spokesman did not elaborate further.
The British Embassy had no comment on further details of the discussion.