Amos Yee walks free after sentencing

    The sentences were backdated to June 2, when Yee was already in remand after violating probation terms.

    July 6, 2015

    SINGAPORE: The Singaporean teenager behind online attacks on former premier Lee Kuan Yew was given a four-week jail term Monday but freed in view of time served since being accused of offending Christians and posting an obscene image.

    Amos Yee, 16, was jailed for three weeks for wounding religious feelings in an expletive-laden YouTube video comparing Lee Kuan Yew to Jesus, which was posted after the independence leader’s death in March.

    He also received a one-week jail term for posting an obscene drawing of Lee and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

    District Court judge Jasvender Kaur backdated the sentence to June 2, when Yee was already in remand, saying the offences “were not serious in nature but not trivial either”.

    Yee, who was earlier shackled on his hands and feet in court, looked dazed and frightened as he left the court. He did not speak to reporters.

    Yee’s lawyer Alfred Dodwell told reporters his client wants to appeal the conviction.

    Yee had faced an extended period behind bars. The maximum penalty for wounding racial or religious feelings is three years.

    Rights groups criticised the city-state for arresting Yee and sympathisers staged rallies in Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan to demand the boy’s freedom ahead of the sentencing.

    Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, told AFP he saw the backdated sentence as a “face-saving way for Singapore to say they were not wrong for prosecuting him when in fact the whole world community knows that they were”.

    A spokeswoman for Singapore’s Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) rebutted criticism from Robertson and other international rights activists that the city-state was curtailing freedom of speech by prosecuting Yee.

    “This case is not about freedom of expression. It is about the abuse of such freedom. Unbridled speech without limits does not exist in any known society,” she told AFP.

    A promise not to reoffend

    Prosecutors said Yee had breached his bail conditions, rejected probation and spurned suggestions that he voluntarily undergo psychiatric evaluation.

    They said a shift in Yee’s attitude was a key reason for their decision to withdraw their earlier call for him to be sent to a reform institution, where he would have had to stay for at least 18 months.

    They noted that the teenager has removed the offending materials.

    Yee’s case gained international attention after critics of the long-ruling People’s Action Party, co-founded by Lee Kuan Yew, said he was a victim of censorship and excessive punishment.

    It has divided public opinion in the city-state, with many attacking Yee for insulting both Christianity and the nation’s revered founding father, who was given a hero’s funeral on March 29.

    But 77 Singaporean intellectuals, artists and activists Saturday criticised what they called the government’s “harsh” reaction to Yee’s acts in an open letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the former leader’s son.

    The AGC, the state prosecution arm, put the blame on Yee.

    “Under our laws, lines are drawn against acts that deliberately wound religious feelings and against the publication of images that have a tendency to deprave and corrupt. Amos Yee crossed those lines with deliberation and calculation. His actions led to his conviction,” the AGC spokeswoman said.

    – AFP