Teen Who Went Against Singapore Granted US Asylum

Elias Hubbard
March 27, 2017

The teenager went on to spend 55 days in prison in 2015, after being found guilty of wounding religious feelings and posting a video and an obscene image online.

Yee had been detained by federal immigration authorities since December after being taken into custody after arriving at Chicago's O'Hare International airport seeking asylum, according to his attorney, Sandra Grossman.

Department of Homeland Security attorneys had opposed the asylum bid, saying Yee's case didn't qualify as persecution based on political beliefs.

The Department of Homeland Security has 30 days (until April 24) to file an appeal.

Yee's lawyer Sandra Grossman of Maryland-based Grossman Law LLC told AFP by telephone that U.S. immigration judge Samuel B. Cole had granted her client's application for asylum.

Judge Samuel Cole on Friday said that Mr Yee's "prosecution, detention and general maltreatment at the hands of the Singapore authorities constitute persecution on account of Yee's political opinions" and called him a "young political dissident".

Yee left Singapore with seeking asylum in the USA after being jailed for several weeks. The next year, Yee was jailed six weeks and fined S$2,000, this time for hate speech against Muslims and Christians. Yee is an atheist.

He created controversy in 2015 and many of his blog posts criticised Singapore's leaders. He said Lee's followers were "completely delusional and ignorant". That video, which is titled, "Lee Kuan Yew Is Finally Dead", openly criticized the legacy of Singapore's founding father and longtime leader.

The case has been widely reported internationally after questions were raised about bloggers' ability to uphold the values of free speech in Singapore.

Singapore's prosecution of Yee for wounding religious feelings "was pretextual, as its real objective was to stifle Yee's political speech", he says.

He was jailed again in 2016 for six weeks for insulting Muslims and Christians in a series of videos posted online, but critics claim the real reason was to silence him.

"It is the prerogative of the USA to take in such people who engage in hate speech", the ministry said.

The ruling was praised by others. It may show Singaporeans that there's nothing to be afraid about.

In his 13-page judgment, Judge Cole outlines that Singapore is a democracy but it is essentially controlled by one party, the People's Action Party (PAP).

As he continued to be kept in detention, he went on Facebook to remonstrate about the "awful" and "absurd" immigration policies in the United States, adding that the court was taking too long to decide on his application.

"Singapore is good at creating an environment for free thinkers who dares the political as well as economic".

"It's clear the Singapore government saw Amos Yee as the proverbial nail sticking up that had to be hammered down", said a statement from Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director.

"He's very excited to begin new life in the United States", Grossman said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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