An Immigration Court judge in Illinois has accepted Singaporean teenage blogger Amos Yee's application for political asylum in the US, setting a date for a full hearing on March 7.
In a 10-minute hearing on Monday, his lawyer, Ms Sandra Grossman, appeared in person before the judge while Amos appeared via video from the jail where he has been in detention since arriving in the US on Dec 16.
"We stressed that he is persecuted in Singapore because of his critical political views, and that he has been subjected to an illegitimate process in Singapore," Ms Grossman told The Straits Times by phone.
Amos, 18, has served two jail terms in Singapore for wounding religious feelings. He will remain in detention until the hearing, unless the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) grants him parole.
However, if he is released, his hearing date would be pushed back and it may take years for him to complete the asylum process, Ms Grossman said. "He wants to be released as soon as possible, we have already made the request to ICE and we will be renewing that request."
If the hearing is on March 7, it would be over several hours and involve depositions from witnesses, she said - and the case could be decided on the basis of that hearing.
President Donald Trump's recent executive orders would likely not affect the case, except perhaps indirectly, as the Trump administration has ordered increased detention for asylum seekers that would require diversion of resources, Ms Grossman said.
Amos arrived in Chicago on a tourist visa with a round-trip ticket from Singapore.
According to an online account by US-based Singaporean activist Melissa Chen, a Customs and Border Protection officer flagged him for secondary inspection, where "they seized his electronic devices and found text messages between Amos and me, where we had been making arrangements for his bid for political asylum in the US".