A Tommy Robinson supporter who hurled abuse at an Al Jazeera journalist has been cleared of a religiously aggravated offence after telling magistrates he has a ‘little’ Muslim friend.
William Eve, 57, accused Sonia Gallego of being ‘Muslim-backed’ during a rally for the English Defence League founder, who was being held in custody for allegedly committing contempt of court.
Footage played in court shows Eve asking the reporter if she is ‘f**king stupid’ and calling her ‘a slag’.
William Eve, 57, obscures his face as he leaves the court (Picture: PA)The court heard Eve is now ‘sofa surfing’ due to marriage troubles, while his wife’s business, the Bank Restaurant in Hornchurch, east London, has suffered after the footage was posted on Twitter.
Eve admitted one count of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour to cause harassment, alarm or distress but denied there was a religious element to the offence.
He told magistrates he has no issue with Islam or people of other races, adding he has a Muslim friend from Bangladesh who works a greengrocer near his wife’s restaurant.
He said: ‘The little guy who has a shop a few doors away from my wife’s restaurant, Hussain, I used to go to Smithfield Market and buy vegetables for the restaurant and I used to buy vegetables for Hussain … he’s a lovely little man.’
William Eve hurled abuse at Al Jazeera reporter Sonia Gallego (Picture: Central News)Eve, from Rainham, Essex, said he only used the phrase ‘Muslim-backed’ because of Al Jazeera’s links to the Qatari royal family.
He was found not guilty of causing religiously aggravated intentional harassment, alarm or distress and fined £160.
The court heard Ms Galego was reporting on the ‘Free Tommy Robinson’ rally in Whitehall on July 14 last year when she was approached by Eve demanding to know who she was with.
‘Immediately, I felt quite like I was being targeted, first of all for being a member of the press,’ she said.
The confrontation happened at a ‘Free Tommy Robinson’ rally (Picture: PA)‘I told him that I was a journalist, he demanded to know with whom I was with and I told him Al Jazeera.
‘He responded by saying “OK, so you’re Muslim-backed.”’
She said Eve was ‘pointing towards me in quite an aggressive fashion’, adding: ‘An alarm bell went off and I wanted to film it for my safety.’
The reporter, who is British and not a Muslim, said his ‘menacing’ tone continued and when she asked him to explain the comment, Eve asked: ‘Are you f*****g stupid, are you thick?’
Eve then said ‘you know, you’re a slag’, before walking away.
Ms Gallego was then pelted with horse manure, along with her cameraman, producer and security guard.
‘It’s part and parcel of the job to go into situations which are risky,’ she said.
‘However, this has been a point of worry when we have to cover these sort of incidents given the rhetoric that has been bandied about in the past couple of years, not only just in terms of Islamophobia but in terms of journalists trying to do their jobs.’