Far-right extremist Tommy Robinson has been released from a max security prison two months after he was jailed for contempt of court.
The English Defence League founder, who had a shaggy beard and uncut hair, waved at supporters gathered outside HMP Belmarsh in south-east London.
The 36-year-old anti-Islam figure, real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, joked that he looked like a “ginger cowardly convert” before confronting a Mirror Online journalist as his bodyguards stood behind him.
Robinson – who went to McDonald’s after being released – was locked up in July for live-streaming video which featured defendants in a sex grooming trial and put the case at risk of collapse.
He was released on Friday morning after spending nine weeks in solitary confinement at the Category A prison, where he complained he was held like a “caged animal”.
Robinson was given a nine-month sentence but it was reduced to 19 weeks for the time he previously spent behind bars and he was told he would be released after serving half.
After he emerged from the prison he continued to claim he was innocent, ranted against his sentence and joked about his beard and hair, saying “first stop, hairdressers” and “have fun with your memes”.
He confirmed he was held in isolation the entire time, adding: “I walked into Belmarsh prison and walked out without seeing another prisoner … for my safety.”
However the Mirror understands he requested to meet with fellow prisoner Julian Assange but prison bosses slapped down the idea.
Robinson has portrayed himself as a victim and continued to deny he had done anything wrong, despite being found guilty by a judge, as he hit out at the Government, justice system and media when he was interviewed by Canadian far-right journalist Ezra Levant.
He said: “The main thing for this should be an embarrassment to the British Government, an embarrassment to the judiciary.”
Journalists and a few supporters were gathered outside the prison, including a man who tweeted photos of the scene and wrote: “At #Belmarsh to collect #TommyRobinson.”
During his time at Belmarsh, Robinson, a married dad from Luton, Bedfordshire, was visited by supporters such as hate figure Katie Hopkins and former Brexit Party leader Catherine Blaiklock, who was forced to resign due to racist tweets, and far-right journalists.
Hopkins, 44, had claimed this week that Robinson could be freed at the weekend and that he would use a back entrance to avoid any journalists present.
While he was locked up, Robinson – who has been banned from Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for hate speech – endorsed Boris Johnson as the crisis worsened and the Prime Minister launched a failed push for a snap general election.
The prison houses convicted terrorists and murderers, and people convicted of serious crimes, including black cab rapist John Worboys.
It is also where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is being held as the US attempts to extradite him for hacking-related offences.
After spending two hours with Robinson, Blaiklock wrote a blog entry for the Salisbury Review, a Conservative magazine, saying he was being held on a “vast isolation block” where past inmates included hate preachers Abu Hamza and Anjem Choudary, mass killers and and Jo Cox’s murderer Thomas Mair.
She wrote: “He was pale, sporting a beard and a new haircut with a flouncy quiff that made him look like an unassuming English teacher.
“Close up it was his eyes that I noticed. The girl with me said that they were ‘prison eyes’; the eyes of the worried, the isolated, the fearful. He never laughed and rarely smiled.”
He told her: “That is the tiny space that I have to exercise in. I never see the sun and have to walk around and around like a caged animal.”
Robinson claimed he was allowed out of his cell for only two hours a day and there was always at least one guard posted outside, Blaiklock wrote.
He was given access to a TV exercise bike and books, but no computer.
He claimed convicted killers were granted better privileges than him.
Following a two-day High Court hearing in July, Dame Victoria Sharp and Mr Justice Warby found Robinson was in contempt when he filmed men accused of the sexual exploitation of young girls and live-streamed the footage on Facebook, in breach of a reporting ban, outside Leeds Crown Court in May 2018.
Dame Victoria told the Old Bailey in London that Robinson encouraged “vigilante action” in the hour-and-a-half video, which was viewed online 250,000 times on the morning of the broadcast.
It was eventually viewed 3.4 million times after being shared following his arrest.
Robinson, who had begged President Donald Trump for political asylum in the US, denied any wrongdoing, telling the court he did not believe he was breaching reporting restrictions and only referred to information that was already in the public domain.
But Dame Victoria and Mr Justice Warby found he was in contempt by breaching the reporting restriction imposed on the trial, by live-streaming the video from outside the public entrance to the court and by “aggressively confronting and filming” some of the defendants.
Robinson broadcast the footage while the jury in the second of a series of linked grooming trials was considering its verdict.
A reporting restriction was in place which postponed the publication of any details of the case until the end of all the trials involving 29 people, in a bid to ensure all defendants received a fair trial.
Robinson was jailed for 13 months after being found in contempt of court on the day of the broadcast.
He served 10 weeks in jail before being freed from HMP Onley in Northamptonshire after the original finding of contempt was overturned by the Court of Appeal in August 2018.
But the case was then referred back to the Attorney General, who announced in March that it was in the public interest to bring fresh proceedings against Robinson.
Dame Victoria and Mr Justice Warby gave permission for the Attorney General to bring a new case against Robinson at a hearing in May.
After he was jailed, Robinson’s supporter’s staged a violent demonstration where a police medic was kicked in the head and they hurled bottles and smoke bombs at police officers in riot gear, intimidated journalists and attacked their equipment, and torched EU flags.
In August, supporters of the far-right extremist and anti-Robinson demonstrators had to be kept apart by police during duelling protests in central London.
Robinson’s supporters, waving England and Union flags, called for him to be freed from prison.
The counter demonstration was held by Stand Up To Racism.
Before he was jailed, Robinson stood as an independent MEP candidate in the North West but suffered a humiliating defeat with just 2.2 per cent of the vote.