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Amos Yee granted asylum, released from detention in US

SINGAPORE — The Republic’s teen blogger Amos Yee has been released from United States custody on Wednesday (Sept 27) morning following an immigration appeals court’s decision to uphold his bid for asylum.

Amos Yee granted asylum, released from detention in US

Singapore blogger Amos Yee talks to reporters outside of the US immigration field office after being released from federal custody following a US immigration appeals court's decision to uphold his bid for asylum, Sept. 26, 2017, in Chicago. Photo: AP

SINGAPORE — The Republic’s teen blogger Amos Yee has been released from United States custody on Wednesday (Sept 27) morning following an immigration appeals court’s decision to uphold his bid for asylum.

Amos, 18, whose online posts mocking and criticising the Singapore Government and other races and religion twice landed him in jail, left for the US in December last year with the intention of seeking asylum. But federal immigration agents detained him at the O’Hare International Airport in Chicago and he had been behind bars since.

Carrying a clear plastic bag filled with his belongings, Amos emerged on Wednesday from a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in downtown Chicago.

“I’m kind of stunned right now,” Amos said after his release. “It’s very surreal ... (but) I’ll continue leading life as usual.”

The teen also said that he has “plans for more videos, much of them criticising the Singapore Government”. “I think maybe I might broaden my work to US politics too, since I’m here,” he added.

Hours earlier, his lawyers received notification of a Board of Immigration Appeals decision upholding a Chicago immigration judge’s March ruling that Amos had a “well-founded fear” of being persecuted upon his return to Singapore.

The board determined the Chicago judge correctly relied on expert and witness testimony in asylum proceedings earlier this year. Attorneys from the US Department of Homeland Security had opposed Amos’ asylum bid. 

With asylum status, Amos will be eligible to apply for a green card in a year, his lawyers said.

“We welcome the board’s decision and we welcome it because it’s a decision that’s grounded in law and in fact,” Amos’ pro-bono attorney Sandra Grossman said. “He was persecuted because of political beliefs.”

In closed-door proceedings, Homeland Security attorneys had said Amos’ asylum case did not qualify as persecution based on political beliefs.

Amos, an atheist, was accused of hurting the religious feelings of Muslims and Christians in Singapore. Many of his explicit social media and blog entries criticised Singapore’s leaders. He ignited controversy in 2015 after posting a fiery video about the country’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew just after his death.

In March, Judge Samuel Cole in Chicago concluded that Amos had met the burden of showing “he suffered past persecution on account of his political opinion and had a well-founded fear of future persecution in Singapore”. The judge said that the aim of jailing Amos in Singapore at such a young age was to stifle his political speech.

The Singapore Government had criticised the March decision, with the Ministry of Home Affairs saying the US “allows such hate speech under the rubric of freedom of speech”.

Amos had said that he feared returning to Singapore, but that he would continue his activism. Amos has been outspoken from a young age, winning a film-making prize in Singapore at the age of 13. AP

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