Amos Yee, Singaporean teenager who berated founding father Lee Kuan Yew in online video, given 4 weeks in jail

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 July, 2015, 2:09am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 July, 2015, 6:54pm

The Singaporean teenager convicted of hurting religious feelings in an online video berating former leader Lee Kuan Yew was given a four-week jail term yesterday but freed on account of time already served.

Amos Yee, 16, was jailed for three weeks for "wounding religious feelings" in the expletive-laden YouTube video that compared Lee to Jesus and was posted after the independence leader's death in March.

He also received one week 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 had been held in remand in prison for 37 days along with 13 days in a mental hospital for psychiatric assessment.

Yee's lawyer, Alfred Dodwell, said they planned to appeal against the conviction.

Yee was facing the possibility of an extended period behind bars. The maximum penalty for wounding racial or religious feelings is three years in prison. Distribution of an obscene drawing is punishable by three months.

But prosecutors said a shift in Yee's attitude was a key reason for the withdrawal of 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 the teenager had now removed from the internet the offending materials and that he had told a psychiatrist he "would admit to his guilt and promised not to reoffend".

Free-speech groups in Hong Kong that had held rallies calling for Yee's release welcomed the court's decision yesterday.

The University of Hong Kong's student union and Amnesty International Hong Kong said Yee should never have been convicted in the first place. They said the courts should quash the convictions against the teenager.

HKU student union vice-president Colman Li Fung-kei said the Singaporean authorities should be condemned for their handling of the case. He said they had been unreasonable and overly harsh from the outset.

Mabel Au Mei-po, Amnesty International's Hong Kong director, said Yee's release was a relief, "particularly as he is a teenager".