Published on Monday, 22 October 2012 19:54 Written by Sonia Gable
The leader of the English Defence League has been remanded in custody charged with using a false identity document to enter the USA. Stephen Lennon, 29, of Bedford appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court today after being arrested on Saturday. He will appear at Southwark Crown Court in January.
Lennon, who is unemployed, claimed on his Twitter page that the arrest arose from an invitation to speak in New York to mark the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He could face extradition to the USA.
The EDL’s website claimed Lennon, who is also known as Tommy Robinson, had been denied legal aid and appealed for funds for his defence.
Lennon has also been arrested over an alleged assault in Luton. It is believed the victim was Saiful Islam, who is known for preaching Islamic fundamentalism in Bury Park, Luton. Both men featured in the Channel 4 documentary Proud and Prejudiced earlier this year.
A spokesman for Bedfordshire Police said a man was assaulted in New Bedford Road at about 10.15 by five men who got out of a black BMW. He was punched and kicked and lost his mobile phone and keys in the incident. His injuries were described as “reddening of the left eye”. Police confirmed a 29-year-old man was being held on suspicion of assault.
Lennon was among 53 men arrested on Saturday at various locations on the M25 and M3 motorways on suspicion of conspiracy to cause a public nuisance in east London. It is believed they were planning to hold an unofficial demonstration outside a mosque in Whitechapel.
The men, who are reported to be EDL supporters had hired trucks to hide in to travel to their destination unnoticed. But the police were aware of the operation and stopped the vehicles.
It is understood that one of those detained was Kev Carroll, the British Freedom Party candidate in the election for Bedfordshire police and crime commissioner on 15 November: not the ideal start to his campaign for which the BFP has so far raised £1,375.01 of the £2,500 it intends to spend.
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said “the arrests formed part of an intelligence-led, pre-event investigation into a planned disturbance in east London on the same day.
“All 53 were males and they were arrested for conspiracy to cause public nuisance before being taken into custody at various locations in central and south London.”
All apart from Lennon have been bailed on condition that they do not enter east London to demonstrate until late November. That means they will be arrested if they attempt to attend a demonstration the EDL has called for Walthamstow on 27 October.
When the EDL demonstrated in Walthamstow on 1 September, their way was blocked by over 3,000 antifascists who occupied a strategic junction and the intended rally pitch outside the town hall and magistrates’ court. The return visit on 27 October was intended to restore the EDL’s shattered reputation.
The campaign group We Are Waltham Forest and others are planning a counter-demonstration and march starting in Walthamstow town centre on 27 October and the council is planning a family-friendly community funday to celebrate the borough's multiculturalism.
The EDL described 27 October as a “rematch”, but the team will now be playing without its captain and main strikers. Whether Paul Weston, the BFP leader, will step into the breach is not known. Contrary to one inaccurate report, Weston was not among those arrested on Saturday but was elsewhere at the time.