SINGAPORE: A Singaporean teenager who became notorious for profanity-laced attacks on the city’s revered late leader Lee Kuan Yew is seeking political asylum in the US, his lawyer said.
Amos Yee, 18, a filmmaker turned activist who served two jail terms in Singapore for his controversial videos, has been detained by US authorities since he arrived in Chicago airport in mid-December.
Maryland-based lawyer Sandra Grossman expects Yee to face an immigration judge within a fortnight.
During the initial court hearing, Yee would have the opportunity to file for asylum, she said in an e-mail.
A full hearing on his application would be held six to eight weeks later.
“If the judge grants asylum, Amos would become an ‘asylee’ and will be able to obtain his residency within one year,” she said, adding that appeals can be made if asylum is denied.
Grossman, who is representing Yee free of charge, called the case “worthwhile” because of the issues involved.
“This is a case that will force us to look at our own national interest in free speech,” she said.
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed Yee was in custody pending federal immigration court proceedings.
Yee was in high spirits despite being detained and was seeking US asylum because America is a “safe space” where free speech is not policed, Melissa Chen, a US-based Singaporean who has been helping Yee with his asylum bid, said in a Facebook post.
Yee’s mother Mary Toh confirmed his detention and US asylum bid, and said: “The matter is now with his lawyers.”
Singapore’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Yee, who won a filmmaking award at 13, posted an expletive-laden video in March last year attacking Lee amid an outpouring of grief over the founding prime minister’s death that same week. — AFP