Singaporean YouTuber Amos Yee, the 17-year-old provocateur who has been repeatedly targeted for his supposedly “blasphemous” videos and has been held in a U.S. detention facility since December, has finally been granted asylum as a political refugee.
By way of background, you may recall that Yee was arrested and convicted of “wounding religious feelings” and “obscenity” in 2015 after he made a video mocking Christianity and Singapore’s founding father, Lee Kwan Yew. Though he was handed a jail sentence of multiple weeks, the court awarded him “time served” for how long he had been in custody and basically let him go.
So he continued posting his videos.
Then, last summer, they came after him again.
The 17-year-old was arrested on May 11 and released on bail of S$5,000.
Five of the charges Yee faces are for allegedly wounding the religious feelings of Muslims, and one for allegedly wounding the religious feelings of Christians. These charges are under Section 298 of the Penal Code.
If convicted, Yee could have spent up to three years in jail in addition to a fine.
Yee was thankfully (?) hit with a jail sentence that only lasted six weeks. Any amount of time is too much, to be sure, but in this case, it could have been so much worse. Yee also had to pay a fine of $2,000.
In December, Yee came to Chicago on a tourist visa with the hope of seeking asylum… but, perhaps because of that bait-and-switch, he was kept in detention. He had a case, though. If they sent him back home, he risked further prosecution (or worse).
That’s why the recent developments are so welcome.
Judge Samuel Cole ruled Yee’s prosecution, detention and maltreatment at the hands of the Singapore authorities “constitute(s) persecution on account of Yee’s political opinions,” and called him a “young political dissident.
[Yee’s attorney Sandra] Grossman said the judge’s decision supported the right of individuals to criticize their government.
“The right to free speech is sacred, even when such speech is considered offensive,” she said in an email. “The decision timely underscores the vital need for an independent judiciary in a functioning democracy.”
Where Yee will go now is unclear. But it won’t be back to Singapore, and for that, we should be grateful.
(Large portions of this article were published earlier. Thanks to Ron for the link)