U.S. judge grants Singaporean blogger's
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[March 25, 2017]
By Timothy Mclaughlin
CHICAGO (Reuters) - A U.S. immigration
judge in Chicago on Friday granted asylum to a Singaporean blogger,
saying he was persecuted for his political opinions in the Southeast
Amos Yee, 18, who had been jailed twice in Singapore, qualifies as a
political refugee, according to a 13-page opinion by the U.S.
Yee is immediately eligible for release after having been held in U.S.
immigration detention since Dec. 16, 2016, according to his attorney,
Sandra Grossman, who is based in Bethesda, Maryland.
The Singapore Embassy in Washington could not be reached for comment
after business hours on Friday evening.
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
"The evidence presented at the hearing demonstrates Singapore's
prosecution of Yee was a pretext to silence his political opinions
critical of the Singapore government," Cole wrote.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security had opposed Yee's asylum
application, claiming the Singapore government legitimately prosecuted
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."
Yee had been held by U.S. authorities since arriving at Chicago's O'Hare
International Airport, seeking political asylum. He was initially
detained in Illinois, but is now being held at the Dodge County
Detention Facility in Juneau, Wisconsin, Grossman said.
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Teen blogger Amos Yee arrives at the State Courts in Singapore
September 28, 2016. REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo
Yee has been jailed twice in Singapore for online comments. His
trials, which have been closely watched by rights groups and the
United Nations, have fueled the debate in Singapore over censorship,
the limits of free speech and political correctness.
In September of last year, Yee pleaded guilty to six charges of
deliberately posting comments on the internet - in videos, blog
posts and a picture - that were critical of Christianity and Islam.
He was sentenced to six weeks in jail.
In 2015, Yee was convicted on charges of harassment and insulting a
religious group over comments he made about former premier Lee Kuan
Yew and Christians soon after Lee's death. His sentence at the time
amounted to four weeks in jail.
(Reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago, writing by Ben Klayman
in Detroit; editing by Diane Craft)
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