Asia

Amos Yee: Singapore charges teen over anti-Lee Kuan Yew rant

  • 31 March 2015
  • From the section Asia
Amos Yee arrives at court with his father in Singapore (31 March 2015) Image copyright AFP
Image caption Amos Yee's father apologised outside court to Lee Kuan Yew's son, the current PM Lee Hsien Loong

A Singapore teenager has been charged over an online video criticising Christianity and the country's recently deceased founding PM Lee Kuan Yew.

Sixteen-year-old Amos Yee, who was detained on Sunday shortly after Mr Lee's state funeral, has been given bail set at S$20,000 (£9,800; $14,500).

The video sparked a huge backlash from grieving Singaporeans and more than 20 police reports were lodged.

Singapore has strict hate speech laws strengthened under Mr Lee's leadership.

Lee Kuan Yew was deeply respected by Singaporeans and his death last week prompted unprecedented public mourning.

He was widely seen as the architect of Singapore's prosperity, but during his 31 years as prime minister he also clamped down on opponents, imposed strict social rules and tight political control.

Father's apology

In the expletive-laden eight-minute video which was uploaded last Friday, Amos Yee celebrated Mr Lee's death and criticised his strict control of Singapore, calling him "a horrible person".

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Singaporeans observed a minute's silence and recited the national pledge during Mr Lee's funeral on Sunday

He said Singaporeans were scared to criticise Mr Lee and compared him disparagingly to Jesus Christ.

The video drew a visceral response from Singaporeans, who had turned up in large numbers to mourn Mr Lee last week as he lay in state.

Mr Yee subsequently took down the video, but copies have since been uploaded on YouTube.

On Tuesday, Mr Yee appeared in court to be charged on three counts: "deliberate intention of wounding the religious or racial feelings of any person", distributing obscene material and harassment.

He faces a fine and up to three years in jail if convicted.

Mr Yee - who was originally reported to be 17 - will be tried as an adult. In addition to bail, he agreed not to post any material online while the case is in progress.

Speaking outside the courtroom, his father apologised to the current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who is Mr Lee's son.

Singapore's hate speech laws are intended to ensure harmony between its multi-ethnic population and prevent a recurrence of the racial violence of its early years.

In a statement Deputy Commissioner Tan Chye Hee said the police "take a stern view of acts that could threaten religious harmony in Singapore".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Lee died last week and lay in state in the country's parliament house

Amos Yee was one of several people who went online to publicly criticise Mr Lee's legacy - others include human rights activists and a prominent poet - but he is the only one to have been arrested.

A petition started by a Christian Singaporean has been launched, calling for his release.

Media rights group the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said the arrest "highlights the restrictive environment in which Singaporean journalists are forced to work".

"We call on authorities to release Amos Yee immediately and to undertake reform of Singapore's outdated laws restricting the media," said CPJ's Asia spokesman Bob Dietz.

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