Singapore court frees 16-year-old blogger Amos Yee

Singapore teen charged over YouTube rant
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Story highlights

  • Judge sentences Amos Yee to four weeks in prison and releases him on time served
  • The teen calls conviction "manifestly excessive," vows to appeal, his attorney says
  • Human rights groups decries a legal system that would jail a teen for being "outspoken"

(CNN)Teen blogger Amos Yee is free, according to his attorney.

Guilty of "obscenity" and "wounding of religious feelings" but free.
    The youngster plans to appeal his conviction and sentence, which he feels is "manifestly excessive," to the High Court of the Republic of Singapore, according to the lawyer.
    "We enquired from Amos as to his physical well-being earlier today as he had visibly lost weight. He said he was feeling better. He had a meal today but was feeling slightly giddy," attorney Alfred Dodwell said in a statement.
    Yee was taken Sunday evening to Changi General Hospital after officials determined his loss of appetite had affected his blood pressure and blood sugar levels, his lawyer said.

    A comparison to Jesus, Mao

    Earlier this year, the 16-year-old published an expletive-laden YouTube video praising the death of Singapore's first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, calling him "totalitarian" and comparing him unfavorably to Jesus and Mao Zedong.
    Yee also posted an image showing two cartoon figures having sex, with the faces of Lee and the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher digitally added.
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    Lee, highly revered in Singapore, was laid to rest In March with thousands gathering in a massive state funeral service. Admired for his role in turning the former British colony into a financial powerhouse, Lee was also criticized for tamping down free speech.
    On the day of Lee's funeral in March, Singapore police arrested Yee, saying his video contained "disparaging remarks against Christians." He was charged with intent to wound the religious feelings of any person, circulating obscene objects and making threatening and abusive or insulting communications -- charges commanding up to three years in prison.
    "Police take a stern view of acts that could threaten religious harmony in Singapore. Any person who uploads offensive content online with deliberate intention of wounding the religious or racial feelings of any person will be firmly dealt with in accordance with the law," Deputy Commissioner of Police Tan Chye Hee said at the time.
    Yee's bail was set at $14,500, The Strait Times newspaper reported, adding that Yee's father apologized to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who is the son of Lee Kuan Yew.

    Deteriorating state?

    Found guilty in May, Yee was detained for 53 days at Changi Prison before being transferred two weeks ago to the Institute of Mental Health where, his attorney said, he underwent court-ordered psychiatric examinations.
    "As Amos's lawyers, we were deeply concerned of the strain on his mental state and his physical state in the long period of remand," Dodwell said.
    Amos Yee arrives at court with his father in March.
    Some of the teenager's advocates feared that if those exams went poorly Yee might be required to undergo more than two years of mandatory psychiatric treatment in lieu of prison time.
    But on Monday, Judge Jaswinder Kaur handed down a one-week sentence for the obscenity charge and three weeks in prison for the charge of wounding religious feelings.
    With Yee having been in prison for well over a month, Kaur released him for time served.
    A psychiatrist at the Institute of Mental Health said Yee does not realize that "freedom of expression is not freedom from consequence" and recommended counseling on responsible use of the Internet, Dodwell's statement said. The psychiatrist also recommended that Yee continue his formal education and attend family counseling.

    'The conviction is wrong in law'

    "So, Amos is free today. He does not face any further sanctions in so far as these two charges are concerned," Dodwell said. "Amos, duly advised by his lawyers, is of the view that the conviction is wrong in law and sentence levied against him is manifestly excessive."
    Earlier this month, Yee's mother, Mary Toh, who attended court hearings in a "#FreeAmosYee" T-shirt, wrote a letter -- widely shared on Facebook -- to her son, apologizing that he was so insecure and scared after she had told him he was "in the safest country"
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    "Sorry for urging you to be a law-abiding citizen. The laws are doing you more harm than good now," his mother wrote. "Sorry for encouraging you to be creative and expressive. You are regarded as crazy and rebellious instead."
    Yee faced numerous threats -- including multiple Internet threats of rape -- from Singaporeans angry over his YouTube posting, and in April, a 49-year-old man slapped Yee outside a courtroom and was sentenced to three weeks in jail.
    Watchdog groups, including Human Rights Watch, demanded Yee's release and decried a legal system that would ignore the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child and "impose the criminal justice system on outspoken 16-year-olds."
    In a statement this month, Hong Kong pro-democracy group Scholarism, led by student leader Joshua Wong, called for Yee's immediate release, saying on Facebook, "The fact that the Singaporean government has forcibly imprisoned a teenager ... undeniably reflects the unreasonable oppression and the very limited acceptance of dynamic voices in the so-called 'modernised' society of Singapore."