Singaporean teen blogger Amos Yee, who was jailed twice in his home country for his social media postings, has been released from U.S. custody after his bid for asylum was upheld by an immigration appeals court, his lawyer said Wednesday.
Yee also confirmed by phone with Kyodo News that he was released from Jerome Combs Detention Center in Kankakee, Illinois, on Tuesday afternoon local time. He had been locked up in several detention centers since his arrival in Chicago last December, while U.S. authorities considered his request for political asylum.
The Board of Immigration Appeals has “dismissed the Department of Homeland Security’s appeal opposing asylum in the case of Amos Yee,” his lawyer, Sandra Grossman, said in a statement.
The statement said the board upheld Immigration Judge Samuel Cole’s decision in March this year to grant Yee asylum as he was a victim of persecution by the Singapore government. In his written judgment, Cole had taken note of Singapore’s authoritarian regime and restrictions it imposes on the freedoms of press and speech.
“I am happy that I am released. It took a long time and I thought of giving up,” Yee said from Illinois on Tuesday just after he was released. “I just want to continue making my videos and saying what I want to say without getting arrested.
Yee said he plans to continue making and posting online videos commenting on the political situation in Singapore, but also plans to expand his coverage to issues in the United States, including possibly directing criticisms against U.S. President Donald Trump.
“Singapore is a horrible country — every time I criticized the government or religion in Singapore, they would put me in jail,” Yee said.
“I was popular and important in Singapore. Now I am not sure I will be popular and important in America. That is just my fear.”
Yee has received a mixed reception in Singapore over his social media postings.
Some people admire him for daring to speak out against government policies, while others have faulted him for criticizing Singapore’s late founding father Lee Kuan Yew, who has been credited with Singapore’s economic success despite his authoritarianism.
Yee made news in 2015 after he posted a YouTube video harshly critical of Lee, whom he labeled a dictator, immediately after the leader’s death in March that year.
In July 2015, he was sentenced to four weeks in jail after pleading guilty to charges of offending the feelings of Christians and Muslims in connection with that video.
He was sentenced to another six weeks’ jail in September last year for offending religious sentiments through other online postings.
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