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March 26, 2017
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Singaporean dissident granted US asylum

World

March 26, 2017

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SINGAPORE: A Singaporean teenager who was jailed twice after insulting the island’s late leader Lee Kuan Yew and religious groups has been granted political asylum in the United States, his US lawyer said on Saturday.

Amos Yee, 18, shocked Singaporeans in March 2015 after posting an expletive-laden video attacking Lee as the founding prime minister’s death triggered a massive outpouring of grief in the city-state.

He was jailed for four weeks for hurting the religious feelings of Christians and posting an obscene image as part of his attacks on Lee -- whose son Lee Hsien Loong is now the prime minister -- but served 50 days including penalties for violating bail conditions. 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.

Yee’s lawyer Sandra Grossman of Maryland-based Grossman Law LLC told AFP by telephone that US immigration judge Samuel B. Cole had granted her client’s application for asylum. "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," the judge said in the decision, a copy of which was seen by AFP.

The judge said evidence presented during the hearing "demonstrates Singapore’s persecution of Yee was a pretext to silence his political opinions critical of the Singapore government".

The US Department of Homeland Security had opposed Yee’s asylum application, saying he was legally prosecuted by the Singapore government. It now has 30 days to appeal the judge’s decision.

In a statement Saturday, Singapore’s home affairs ministry, which looks after internal security, said Yee had engaged in "hate speech" but noted that such rhetoric is allowed in the US. "It is the prerogative of the US to take in such people who engage in hate speech. There are many more such people, around the world, who deliberately engage in hate speech, and who may be prosecuted," the statement said.

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