SINGAPORE - After a two-hour hearing on Friday before a courtroom filled with onlookers, teenage blogger Amos Yee was told that he would find out his fate on Tuesday, May 12.
The 16-year-old had pleaded not guilty to uploading an obscene image and intending to hurt the feelings of Christians in a YouTube video. But the prosecution, calling it a “simple” case, urged that he be convicted on both charges.
“The defence says the image is not obscene, but it plainly is,” said Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Hay Hung Chun. “The defence says the accused did not deliberately intend to wound the religious feelings of Christians but he plainly did.”
The image in question which Yee posted on March 28 was an illustration of two people having sex, on which he superimposed the images of Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
One of Yee’s three lawyers, Mr Ervin Tan, argued that for an image to be obscene, it has to have a tendency to “deprave and corrupt” those who see it. But this was not the case here. “The image is a line drawing which the accused found online. There is no colour, no facial features, and no genitals depicted. It simply shows the shape of two humans in what appears to be a sexual position.”
The original image which Yee used is the type used by magazines such as Women’s Health to educate its readers, he added.
Instead, he argued that the main complaints with the image was that it was in poor taste and its insensitive timing, coming so soon in the wake of Mr Lee’s death.
But DPP Hay argued that the image was used as nothing more than a joke to make fun of others. And measured against the “acceptable boundaries of public morality”, the sexual act which was depicted – when not for scientific, educational or medical purposes – had the tendency to corrupt or deprave viewers.
As for the video which was posted on March 27, defence lawyer Chong Jia Hao pointed out that no Christian leader has stepped forward to complain. Instead, he highlighted how police reports lodged against Yee focused on the hurt caused by the way he had criticised Mr Lee.
The lawyer also argued that “Section 298 (of the Penal Code) is not a blasphemy law”, and that it has to allow for legitimate and even robust criticism of religion.
But DPP Hay argued that Yee’s comments went far beyond fair discussion. He “was offering, under the guise of critical discussion, intentional insults (against Christianity)... exacerbated by a mocking tone”, he said.
And he pointed out that not only has Yee refused to take down the offensive posts, he has also clearly admitted in his police statement that they were “offensive and promoted ill-will and hostility among Singaporeans”.
On Friday, however, Yee’s lawyer Alfred Dodwell requested for an earlier statement that his client gave to the police to be tendered as evidence – one that would “vindicate” the teenager.
This led to both sides exchanging barbs. DPP Hay objected, saying he was “bamboozled” by the request since since Mr Dodwell had enough opportunity to submit the evidence earlier.
When District Judge Jasvender Kaur allowed the submission, people in the public gallery clapped.
Mr Dodwell told the court that in the statement, Yee had told police that “there was no deliberate intention of wounding religious feelings”. Instead, his intention was to “provide a unique analogy to Mr Lee Kuan Yew based on his substantive knowledge of Jesus Christ”.
After the trial, Yee was brought back to Changi Prison, where he is being remanded.