Singapore arrests teenager over video critical of Lee Kuan Yew

  • AFP, Singapore
  • Updated: Mar 31, 2015 12:13 IST

A Singaporean teenager arrested for posting an expletive-laden YouTube video attacking the country's late founding leader Lee Kuan Yew and Christianity was charged Tuesday with jailable offences including obscenity and hurting religious feelings.

Amos Yee, a slight student with a thick mop of hair, smiled and fidgeted as charges were read to him in a district court. He was released on Sg$20,000 ($14,500) bail.

Yee, who at 16 is old enough to be tried as an adult, was already known in the local YouTube community for humorous postings and a bit role as a child actor in a comedy movie called "We Not Naughty".

Yee, who wore a dark T-shirt over beige trousers and rubber flip-flops, was slapped with three separate charges, including one for actions that have the "deliberate intention of wounding the religious or racial feelings of any person".

Yee was also charged with circulating on his blog an obscene object -- a graphic cartoon of Lee with former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher -- as well as making threatening, abusive or insulting communication under the city-state's newly enacted Protection from Harassment Act.

In an eight-minute video titled "Lee Kuan Yew is finally dead" Yee launched a scathing attack on the 91-year-old political patriarch who was cremated after a state funeral on Sunday.

In the video, Yee, who was arrested on the day of the funeral, also likened Singapore's first prime minister to Jesus as he launched a tirade against Christianity.

He called Lee, who did not profess any religion, a "horrible person" and challenged the former leader's son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, to sue him.

"But I am going to compare him with someone that people haven't really mentioned before -- Jesus," Yee said on the video.

"They are both power-hungry and malicious but deceive others into thinking they are compassionate and kind."

The judge ordered Yee to refrain from making any social media postings while the case is pending.

The next hearing is scheduled for April 17.

Father 'very sorry'

Outside the courtroom, his teary-eyed father clasped his hands and told reporters: "I would like to take this opportunity to say very sorry to PM Lee".

But his son later smiled and waved to reporters as they left the court building.

The controversial video has been taken down from the teenager's YouTube page but others have reproduced it in part or in full.

In an online petition to the Singapore government on activist website, petitioners who described themselves as Christians had called for Yee's release. It had garnered 1,000 supporters before Yee appeared in court.

If convicted, Yee faces up to three years in jail, a fine, or both for the first charge of deliberately wounding religious or racial feelings.

For circulating obscene content, he faces up to three months in jail, a fine or both, and a fine of up to Sg$5,000 ($3,600) under the harassment law enacted last year.

Lee was credited with laying the foundations for Singapore's prosperity as prime minister from 1959 to 1990. More than 100,000 people lined the streets for his casket's final procession despite torrential rain Sunday.

Lee was revered for Singapore's prosperity and social stability but also criticised by rights groups for entrenching a system that called for one dominant political party, the muzzling of the press and curbing political liberties including free speech.

The government says 454,687 people -- out of a population of 5.5 million -- paid their last respects to Lee before his public wake ended in parliament on Saturday.

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