Anti-Muslim activist Tommy Robinson receives support from foreign backers

Research into his social media supporters reveals many are from overseas

WYTHENSHAWE, ENGLAND - APRIL 25: British far-right activist and pundit, Tommy Robinson (real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon) speaks to supporters as he launches his election campaign for the forthcoming European Elections, where he will standing for the North West seat as an independent, on April 25, 2019 in Wythenshawe, England. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images) ***BESTPIX***
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British far-right extremist Tommy Robinson has been receiving support from foreign backers, an investigation revealed.

Research into his Twitter activity and campaign supporters showed that a large amount were from overseas.

The investigation by Hope Not Hate analysed 61,000 signatures on a petition to free Robinson - real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon - who founded the anti-Muslim English Defence League in 2009.

It revealed 68 per cent of signatories were from the UK, the rest were from the US (9 per cent), Australia (9 per cent), Canada, Germany, France, New Zealand, Netherlands, Sweden and Ireland.

It followed Robinson’s sentencing to 13 months' imprisonment last year after he filmed people involved in a criminal trial and broadcast the footage on social media.

His conviction was later quashed but it led to a “free Tommy” campaign on social media in which 2.2 million tweets were posted using the hashtag #freetommy between May and October.

Analysis of the tweets revealed 40 per cent were from the US, with just 30 per cent being from the UK.

Further research revealed that 600 of the Twitter accounts defending him had links to Russia, according to The Guardian newspaper.

The paper revealed he has raised thousands of pounds through online donations, some through Facebook, to fund a legal battle over his imprisonment and to launch a European, right-wing website.

It comes as The Guardian revealed Robinson, who is due to hold a "Brexit Betrayal" march in London on Sunday, has received backing from a US tech billionaire and a think tank based in Philadelphia.

Its investigation linked the Middle East Forum (MEF) to Robinson. The group has acknowledged it spent $60,000 (Dh220,350) on Robinson’s legal fees and demonstrations.

It has also linked US tech billionaire, Robert Shillman, to him, revealing that he financed a fellowship that helped pay for Robinson to be employed in 2017 by a right-wing Canadian media website on a £5,000 a month salary.

Last year, Robinson failed to get a visa to the US where he was due to take part in a conference held by the MEF; he ended up taking part over a video link.

In February, Robinson was permanently banned from Facebook and Instagram for repeatedly breaking policies on hate speech.

Last year, Britain’s Ukip party was criticised for hiring Robinson as an adviser.

On Friday, YouTube took the step of banning videos by Ukip's European election candidate Carl Benjamin.

It comes after the YouTuber made comments about raping a female MP.

He and Robinson have both now also been banned from Twitter.