SINGAPORE: A Singaporean teenager who gained notoriety for attacking the late leader Lee Kuan Yew was jailed for six weeks Thursday for insulting Muslims and Christians in a fresh brush with the law.
Amos Yee, 17, shocked Singaporeans in March 2015 after posting an expletive-laden video attacking Lee as the founding prime minister’s death triggered a massive outpouring of grief in the city-state.
Yee was jailed for four weeks for hurting the religious feelings of Christians and posting an obscene image as part of his attacks on Lee, but served 50 days including penalties for violating bail conditions.
In fresh charges filed in May, Yee was accused of intending to wound the feelings of Muslims and Christians, and two counts of failing to report to police for investigation, between November 2015 and May.
During sentencing, Judge Ong Hian Sun said Yee had “deliberately elected to do harm by using offensive and insulting words and profane gestures” to hurt the feelings of Muslims and Christians, which could lead to discord between the races.
His sentence will start on October 13. Yee was also fined Sg$2,000 ($1,500).
Singapore, which suffered communal riots in the 1960s, closely guards ethnic harmony and prosecutes people seen to be inciting religious and racial strife.
About 74 percent of its 3.9 million citizens and permanent residents are ethnic Chinese, with Malay Muslims and Indians forming the largest minorities.
The prosecution of Yee since he attacked Lee last year has been seen by international rights campaigners as a violation of freedom of expression.
Phil Robertson, Asia deputy director of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement Thursday that “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.”
“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.”
Speaking to reporters after his court appearance, Yee said his case showed that “you can be sent to jail for criticizing Islam in Singapore even if you’re a kid.”