Singaporean video blogger Amos Yee has been released after a United States immigration court upheld his asylum claim, ruling that his fear of future persecution in Singapore was “well-founded.”
Yee confirmed on Wednesday morning that he has been released after months of detention in the US. He added that he intends to remain in Illinois: “I’ll continue doing what I’ve been doing (‘trolling online’) only now I won’t get arrested. Hopefully it turns out well,” he wrote in a message to HKFP.
Speaking of his nine and a half months in US detention, Yee said “it was not ideal, obviously,” though he added his experience “was way better than one month in Singapore jail.”
Yee left Singapore last December to seek asylum in the US, but was detained by federal immigration agents at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.
He was granted asylum in March, with judge Samuel Cole ruling that Yee “met his burden of showing that he suffered past persecution on account of his political opinion and has a well-founded fear of future persecution in Singapore.” However, the Department of Homeland Security appealed and Yee remained behind bars.
Yee’s pro bono counsel, Sandra Grossman, said on Tuesday that the Board of Immigration Appeals agreed Yee had a “well-founded fear of future persecution” in Singapore and that its prosecution of Yee was a pretext to silence his political opinions, according to Channel News Asia. The appeal board dismissed the Department of Homeland Security’s appeal.
The 18-year-old previously posted videos critical of the Singapore government and the ruling People’s Action Party. Yee was first convicted in May 2015 of offending the sentiments of Christians in a video comparing Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew with Jesus Christ, as well as for posting an obscene doctored image of Lee and former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in a sexual position. He was handed a four week jail sentence.