By Jeanette Tan
SINGAPORE (AP) — Teen blogger Amos Yee was found guilty Tuesday of insulting Christians in a video monologue and of distributing an obscene image of Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew with former British leader Margaret Thatcher.
The 16-year-old Yee had faced three years in jail but instead will be put on probation. He was released on a bail of 10,000 Singapore dollars ($7,500) and probation officers will now interview him and his parents to determine what kind of probation he would receive and how long it would last. The result would be announced June 2.
Asked how he felt about the verdict, Yee — who was wearing a navy T-shirt and khaki shorts — told reporters: “I don’t know. I can’t decide. I don’t know if I should celebrate my release or mourn my sentence.”
District Judge Jasvendar 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 posted the video blog laced with expletives as Singapore was mourning Lee’s death 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 and lampooning of leaders is rarely seen in Singapore, where laws are strictly enforced. The government of the multiethnic city-state says the enforcement of the letter of the law is necessary to maintain order and stability among the various races and religions.
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 remove 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 voluntarily causing hurt, pleaded guilty on Tuesday, and will spend three weeks in prison. He faced up to two years in jail. (end)