An immigration judge in Chicago on Friday granted asylum to a Singaporean teen blogger who had been jailed twice in his country for his political criticism and hurting religious sentiments. Eighteen-year-old Amos Yee, who has been in the custody of US immigration officials since December last year, will be released immediately. Yee’s lawyer Sandra Grossman told BBC that he could be released as early as Monday.
In a 13-page document, Judge Samuel Cole said that Yee was prosecuted, detained and treated badly for his political opinions, reported Reuters. Calling Yee a “young political dissident”, the judge said, “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.”
Yee was arrested by US authorities when he arrived at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on December 16, 2016, to seek political asylum. The US Department of Homeland Security had opposed his asylum application on the grounds that the Singapore government had prosecuted him. He is currently lodged at the Dodge County Detention Facility in Juneau, Wisconsin.
In Singapore, Yee was arrested twice for voicing his criticism against the government and leaders on social media. In September last year, Yee was sentenced to six weeks in jail for criticising Christianity and Islam. Earlier in 2015, the teen was convicted for insulting a religious group. He was awarded four weeks’ in jail.
Grossman hailed the verdict. “The right to free speech is sacred, even when such speech is considered offensive,” he told BBC.