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Singapore Jails Teen Blogger For Insulting Muslims, Christians; Human Rights Groups Express Outrage

( [email protected] ) Sep 29, 2016 04:41 PM EDT
A Singapore court sentenced 17-year-old blogger Amos Yee to six weeks in jail on Thursday for "intentionally wounding religious feelings", drawing criticism from a number of rights groups.
Amos Yee pleaded guilty to six charges of deliberately posting comments on the internet in videos, blog posts and a picture that were critical of Christianity and Islam. Reuters

A Singapore court sentenced 17-year-old blogger Amos Yee to six weeks in jail on Thursday for "intentionally wounding religious feelings", drawing criticism from a number of rights groups.

According to Channel News Asia, Yee pleaded guilty to six charges of deliberately posting comments on the internet in videos, blog posts and a picture that were critical of Christianity and Islam. In addition to his prison sentence, Yee was ordered to pay $2,000 for defying two notices to turn up at a police station to give his statement.

"(Yee) is not lacking in his mental capacity to make rational choices in the way he conducts himself," Principal District Judge Ong Hian Sun said, adding that he "deliberately elected to do harm by using offensive and insulting words and profane gestures to hurt the feelings of Christians and Muslims".

The blogger's "contemptuous and irreverent remarks" undermines the religious harmony in Singapore, and his conduct "should not be condoned or tolerated", the judge said.

Judge Ong also said he hoped the punishment, while not overly harsh, would be enough to deter Yee from re-offending. "Hopefully we will not have (Yee) appearing again in this court for the same offence in the future," the judge said.

Yee, who was accompanied by his mother, described the sentence as "very fair" and said he was "very remorseful."

The BBC notes that Yee was previously convicted on charges of harassment and insulting a religious group after making comments about former premier Lee Kuan Yew and Christians soon after Lee's death. His sentence then amounted to four weeks in jail he had already served.

His latest sentence was condemned by a number of rights groups, including the United Nations Human Rights Council and the European Union.

"By prosecuting Amos Yee for his comments, no matter how outrageous they may have been, Singapore has unfortunately doubled down on a strategy that clearly violates freedom of expression," Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Right Watch's Asia division, said in an email.

"For a country that prides itself on efficiency, Singapore should re-examine its approach, because every time the authorities go after him, it just adds to his online audience who are interested to find out the latest thing," he said.

Amnesty International also called on Singapore to "repeal or amend legal provisions that criminalize peaceful dissent and end the intimidation and harassment of bloggers and other critics".

David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, said: "The lesson that somebody can be thrown in jail for their speech is exactly the wrong kind of message that any government should be sending to anybody, but especially to young people."

Tags : Amos Yee, Singapore, Muslim, Christianity, Human Rights