May 12, 2015 5:50 AM
Singapore teen guilty of insulting Christians, ex-leader Lee
The Associated Press
SINGAPORE (AP) Singapore teen blogger Amos Yee was on Tuesday found guilty of insulting Christians in a video monologue, and of distributing an obscene image of the country's founding father Lee Kuan Yew with former British leader Margaret Thatcher.
The 16-year-old Yee faced three years in jail but instead will be put on probation. He was released on a bail of 10,000 Singapore dollars ($7,400) and probation officers will now interview him and his parents to determine what kind of probation he would receive. The result would be announced June 2.
In her verdict, District Judge Jasvender Kaur rejected Yee's defense that he did not intend to insult Christians. She also noted she was concerned by the effect on teenagers that the image of the faces of the two leaders superimposed on the drawing of two figures engaged in sexual activity would have.
"The question I had to ask myself was: would any right-thinking parent or teacher approve of their children or students seeing it at home or in the school library? The answer is no... (They would register their) strongest disapproval," she said.
Yee was thrust into the spotlight after posting the video blog laced with expletives as the country was mourning the passing away of Lee on March 23. In the eight-minute clip that he posted on YouTube, Yee said Lee and Jesus Christ were "both power-hungry and malicious," among other derogatory comments mostly targeting Lee.
Such open criticism is rarely tolerated in Singapore, where deference is a cultural norm and self-censorship is endorsed.
Kaur also said prosecutors had proved beyond reasonable doubt that Yee had intended to denigrate both Lee and Jesus Christ. She added that the lack of reactions to his comments stemmed from the fact that they were "not made by someone who is learned or who exerts special influence," but instead by a person who "plainly has a lot of growing up to do."
As part of the guilty verdict, Yee will have to take down the two posts.
Yee's parents said they will discuss with lawyers whether to appeal.
According to court documents shown to The Associated Press, Yee told police that he was raised Catholic but turned atheist by mid-2013.
Arrested and charged in March, he was bailed out by a stranger, then defied one of his bail conditions refraining from posting any public material online and jailed again.
When he re-entered custody on April 30, Yee was slapped in the face by a stranger outside court. The 49-year-old man, who was charged with assault, pleaded guilty on Tuesday, and will spend three weeks in prison. He faced up to two years in jail.