Teenage blogger, Amos Yee, 17, turned up in court today to stand trial against 8 charges filed upon him by the State Prosecutors over alleged offences dealing with deliberate intent to wound religious feelings under Section 298 of the Penal Code and failure to turn up for police interviews under Section 174 of the Penal Code
Section 298 refers to the deliberate intention of wounding the religious or racial feelings of any person, utters any word or makes any sound in the hearing of that person, or makes any gesture in the sight of that person, or places any object in the sight of that person, or causes any matter however represented to be seen or heard by that person.
While Section 174 refers to the act of intentionally omitting to attend at the place or time, or departs from the place where he is bound to attend before the time at which it is lawful for him to depart, under orders from a public servant.
Indicating that he will not plead guilty to the 8 charges, Yee declares that he would be representing himself in court to defend the charges against him.
Yee was given the prosecution’s affidavits on the morning itself to look through, which consisted of statements, blog posts, photos, screengrabs and chat logs captured from electronic devices seized from him and his family.
At the start of the hearing, the State Prosecutor asked for the 8 charges to be heard together in the same trial on the argument that the timing of the offences were interlocking and also related to the other as it is an continuity of the action.
District Judge Lim Tse Haw noted that the charges under Section 298 are under the same issue, and asked if the charges under Section 174 will detract from ascertaining the offence by the accused of wounding the feelings of Christians and Muslims. He said that these two are totally separate issues.
The Prosecutor pointed to the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) and raised reference to section 134(d) of the code, saying that the illustration mentioned gives an example of how two separate offences can claim trial together.
Yee raised objection to the Prosecutor’s proposal. He said it is a detraction from the nature of the offences and feels that he will be subjected to an unfair trial should the jointed trial be approved and that there is not enough strong correlation between the two offences for a jointed trial to take place.
The District Judge subsequently decided that it is appropriate to have a joint trial based on illustration C in Section 134 of the CPC after a short period of stand down.
Prosecutor then asked to have the conditional statements of the 7 witnesses from Prosecution to be submitted to the court instead of having the witnesses to take the stand in court. However, that proposal was rejected by Yee, meaning that the 7 witnesses will be cross examined by both parties in court.
The 7 witnesses are; 2 Investigation Officers in charge of Yee’s case, 3 officers from Tech Forensic who examined devices from Yee or saved the videos and blog posts, and 2 officers who were involved in the arrest of Yee.
Before the trial could proceed any further, Yee requested to go for the Criminal Case Resolution (CCR) process. Yee said that he had got to know of CCR by the stroke of luck while doing his own research for his legal defence after the District Judge noted that such a request should have been made during the Pre-Trial Conference.
After a short discussion in Chambers, Yee was granted the permission to go for CCR.
CCR which was implemented in 2011, provides a neutral forum, facilitated by a judge, for parties to discuss and explore the possibility of early resolution of criminal cases. This reduces wastage of valuable resources due to “cracked‟ trials where the accused person pleads guilty on the day of the trial or after the trial has commenced. For cases where a trial is necessary, CCR process will assist parties to identify the material triable issues and thereby utilise allocated trial dates in a more focused and efficient manner.
The eight charges faced by Yee are; six charges under section 298, and two charges under section 174 of the Penal Code.
|SN||Date of Offence||Article or Video/Act in Offence||Penal Code|
|1||28 Nov 15||“If you are a muslim, you are retarded”||Section 298|
|2||17 Dec 15||“The banned anti-Islam Facebook post by Amos Yee”||Section 298|
|3||14 April 16||“Responding to the common bullshit of Christians”||Section 298|
|4||17 April 16||“Research has begun”||Section 298|
|5||8 May 16||“Amos Yee arrested for wounding religion again”||Section 298|
|6||19 May 16||“Refuting Islam with their own Quran”||Section 298|
|7||14 Dec 15||Omit to attend interview at Jurong Police Divison||Section 174|
|8||10 May 16||Omit to attend interview at Jurong Police Divison||Section 174|
If found guilty of section 298, the penalty is imprisonment for a term of up to 3 years, or with fine, or with both. If found guilty of section 174 of the penal code, the penalty is imprisonment of up to one month, or with fine of $1,500, or with both.
Yee will go for the CCR at 9.30 am and will then stand trial again at the State Courts.
Yee was found guilty of the two charges brought against him on 12 May 2015. One charge is obscenity for having uploaded a picture of the late Singapore prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew in a sexual depiction with the former British prime minister, the late Margaret Thatcher and the second, wounding the feelings of Christians for remarks he made in a video of Mr Lee and the Christian religious icon, Jesus Christ, which he had uploaded onto Youtube.
Yee was given a jail sentence of four weeks on 12 June 2015 for the two charges but was released on the spot in court as he had already spent a total of 55 days detained on remand.
Yesterday, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, warned that Yee’s trial is deeply worrying and a sign of the increased criminalization of expression in Singapore,