Amos Yee, the controversial Singaporean YouTuber who has been locked up in a U.S. detention facility since December after leaving his home country, has finally been granted asylum.
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 along with 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 wasn’t actually a tourist), he was kept in detention. He had a case, though. If they sent him back home, he risked further prosecution (or worse).
What happened since then was reported on in great detail by Buzzfeed last month. But the fact remained that Yee was still not free. And his status was unknown.
That’s about to change. A federal immigration appeals court has ruled in favor of granting him asylum, upholding an earlier ruling from a lower court judge.
The Board of Immigration Appeals agreed in a decision — issued last week and received by attorneys Tuesday — that Amos Yee had a “well-founded fear” of being persecuted upon return to Singapore. The board determined that the Chicago judge correctly relied on expert and witness testimony in asylum proceedings earlier this year. U.S. Department of Homeland Security attorneys opposed Yee’s asylum bid.
Take that, Donald Trump. One journalist is reporting that Yee could be released from prison as early as today.
As I said before, you don’t have to agree with anything Yee says to understand that he hasn’t done anything deserving of the punishments he’s received so far. (And many of his opinions are indeed absurd.) Still, if saying offensive things was a crime, a lot of us would be in jail right now. And for the U.S. to drag this case out as long as it has is appalling. He doesn’t deserve this.
(Large portions of this article were published earlier)