US immigration judge grants asylum to Singapore teen blogger

2017-03-25 08:47
Amos Yee (AP File)

Amos Yee (AP File)

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Chicago - A teenage blogger from Singapore whose online posts blasting his government landed in him jail was granted asylum to remain in the United States, an immigration judge in Chicago ruled on Friday.

Amos Yee has been detained by federal immigration authorities since December when he was taken into custody at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. Attorneys said the 18-year-old could be released from a Wisconsin detention centre as early as Monday.

Judge Samuel Cole issued a 13-page decision more than two weeks after Yee's closed-door hearing on the asylum application.

"Yee has met his burden of showing that he suffered past persecution on account of his political opinion and has a well-founded fear of future persecution in Singapore," Cole wrote.

Yee left Singapore with the intention of seeking asylum in the US after being jailed for several weeks in 2015 and 2016. He was accused of hurting the religious feelings of Muslims and Christians; Yee is an atheist. However, many of his blog and social media posts criticised Singapore's leaders. 

Such open criticism of political leaders is discouraged in Singapore. The case, which raised questions about free speech and censorship, has been closely watched abroad.

Cole said testimony during Yee's hearing showed that while the Singapore government's stated reason for punishing him involved religion, "its real purpose was to stifle Yee's political speech". 

Yee told The Associated Press in a phone interview from jail this month that he feared returning to Singapore. But he said he'd continue to speak out and had already planned a line of T-shirts and started writing a book about his experiences.

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

Read more on:    singapore  |  us

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