Singapore

Singaporean blogger Amos Yee indicted on child porn charges in Chicago

Singaporean blogger Amos Yee, who was given asylum by the United States in 2017, was indicted by a grand jury in Illinois on Wednesday and formally charged with solicitation and possession of child pornography.

The 20-year-old will next appear in court on Wednesday for an arraignment - a proceeding where he will be formally advised of the charges against him, and asked to enter a plea to the charges.

Yee appeared at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse before Judge Charles Beach and was represented by a public defender assigned to him by the Illinois courts.

He has been living in Chicago since 2017, after leaving Singapore where he was jailed twice, in 2015 and 2016, for wounding religious feelings.

In Chicago, he allegedly exchanged nude photos and thousands of messages with a 14-year-old Texas girl.

During his bail hearing on Oct 16, the court heard that he had asked the girl for nude photos in their exchanges between April and July last year. He had also sent nude pictures of himself to her.

His bail was set at US$1 million (S$1.35 million) and he was banned from using the Internet while awaiting trial.

The Chicago Sun-Times newspaper reported that the girl had repeatedly brought up her age in messages with Yee on WhatsApp.

He allegedly told her to remove her age from her WhatsApp profile.

After their relationship soured, she contacted a group called "interested in exposing paedophiles" and US Homeland Security officials were notified, said the report, citing prosecutors.

If convicted of the child pornography charges, Yee's asylum status could be revoked and he could be deported.

Yee was convicted in May 2015 of harassment and insulting a religious group over comments he made about Christians and founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew soon after Mr Lee's death.

He was sentenced to four weeks' jail.

In 2016, he was charged again with hate speech, having deliberately posted comments in online videos and blog posts that were derogatory of Christianity and Islam.

He pleaded guilty and was jailed for six weeks and fined $2,000.

In December that year, he left for the US, a day before he was to report for a medical examination ahead of enlistment into national service.

When he arrived in Chicago, he told the US authorities he was seeking political asylum and an Immigration Court judge in Illinois granted him asylum in March 2017.

Yee's social media accounts were banned from YouTube, WordPress, Facebook and Twitter in 2018, for pro-paedophilia messages posted online.

COURT & CRIME