Blogger Amos Yee has pleaded not guilty to both charges on Thursday morning (May 7), at the start of his two-day trial. The teenager faced a charge of making offensive or wounding remarks against Christianity and another of circulating obscene imagery.
Yee’s lawyers had requested for an adjournment as they needed time to look through the evidence. The judge called for an end to the day’s hearing, and will hear further submissions on Friday, 2.30pm.
Lawyer Alfred Dodwell told reporters after the hearing: “(Yee) is in the highest spirits possible and he’s very happy with the conduct of the case and feels very confident about it.
“Amos is very positive; he believes there’s nothing wrong and stands by what he says and this is the very reason why he is in remand, because he refuses to be gagged.”
“Amos is in the highest spirits possible and he’s very happy with the conduct of the case”: #AmosYee’s lawyer, Alfred Dodwell, says that the blogger “knew what he was doing”. cna.asia/1bzfvsg
Posted by Channel NewsAsia Singapore on Wednesday, May 6, 2015
“In relation to the first charge, which is in relation to obscenity, it is a legal argument so there is no need for there to be a trial, because we have to submit on whether this image is, in law, found to be obscene. So there are legal tests to be involved and that’s what we will be submitting on in relation to this. And the court has to make a determination as to whether this image was and truly obscene,” said Mr Dodwell.
“In relation to the second (charge), the portion on the relation to Christianity, there’s a lot said that he attacked Christianity, in the context of the transcript of what he has said. The question really is, did he do so, and if so, then in what context did he say it as an analogy to Mr Lee Kuan Yew?” Mr Dodwell asked.
He added: “The question for us as lawyers is: ‘Has he violated the law? Is he criminal in relation to this?’ That is really the question. And Amos Yee knows about these things. He feels very strongly that he has the freedom of speech and expression in Singapore as provided for in the Constitution and he feels very strongly that he has done nothing wrong. So he’s in the highest of spirits.”
“I FULLY EXPECTED PEOPLE TO TAKE OFFENCE”
Court documents revealed that Yee knew that the contents of his blogs and videos would be offensive, but went ahead to post them. Before uploading his video on Christianity in December 2014, Yee said he was “aware that the content of the video was offensive and would promote feelings of disharmony and ill-will within the Christian community”.
“I noted that there were people who were offended by my video and I fully expected people to take offence,” he said, referring to comments after the video was uploaded.
Regarding his video posted on Mar 27, he said: “I was aware that the contents of the video were seditious in nature, in that they raised discontent or disaffection amongst people practising the Christian faith in Singapore, but was not sure if my actions would land me in jail.”
The Mar 27 video compared Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew to Jesus Christ. “I was fully aware that this comparison was bound to promote ill-will amongst the Christian population, and would be offensive to a significant number of Singaporeans, because the general sentiment towards Lee Kuan Yew was very positive,” said Yee.
Court documents also revealed that Yee’s mother, when consulted, advised him not to upload the Mar 27 video, but he “disagreed with her and uploaded it anyway”.
“I do not have the intention to remove any of the videos that I have made,” said Yee according to Court documents, adding that he also would not remove the post involving Margaret Thatcher and Mr Lee Kuan Yew that was deemed obscene. “I refuse to do this because it would not appease the public, as the video and posts will continue to be circulated, and also because doing so would suggest that I was sorry for the videos and my post, which I am not.”
According to Court documents, Yee said his ideas were also shaped by meet-ups with members from the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP). An SDP member also introduced Yee to Mr Roy Ngerng’s blog, and Yee said he was convinced by what Mr Ngerng had published.
The teenager added that he drew evidence from Mr Ngerng’s blog posts for his video on Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
COURTROOM PACKED FOR TRIAL
Yee decided not to take the stand in court on Thursday. One of his lawyers later said this was because Yee had explained himself in the statement to police, after his arrest in March.
The teen’s parents attended the trial. Mr Ngerng, blogger Andrew Loh and lawyer Teo Soh Lung were also seen in the packed courtroom.
Yee has been in remand after his previous pre-trial conference on Apr 30, after his bailor, family and youth counsellor Vincent Law, decided to discharge himself. Mr Law had told reporters earlier that he had done so as Yee “refuses to abide” by the bail conditions. Mr Law was also seen in the audience on Thursday morning.
If convicted of making remarks wounding the feelings of Christians, Yee, who is being tried as an adult, faces up to three years’ jail, a fine, or both. For circulating obscene imagery, he could be jailed up to three months, fined, or punished with both.
A third charge, for his statements on Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, was “stood down”. An AGC spokesperson said the charge has not been dropped, but that the prosecution will deal with the first two charges for the upcoming trial with the third charge to be dealt with later.
The 16-year-old saw his challenge on the conditions of his bail dismissed by Justice Tay Yong Kwang in a bail hearing on Wednesday. Yee also refused to go for psychiatric counselling in exchange for a lower bail amount, which remained at S$30,000.