Amos Yee pleads not guilty as trial starts

CLAD in a white prison T-shirt and brown shorts, and in handcuffs and leg shackles, teenage blogger Amos Yee Pang Sang pleaded not guilty to the two charges against him in court yesterday morning at the start of his two-day trial.

The 16-year-old, who has been in the media spotlight since he was charged in court for three offences on March 31, smiled at times as he sat in the dock.

He has been in remand in Changi Prison since last Thursday, after his bailor, family and youth counsellor Vincent Law, discharged himself following a breach by Yee of his bail terms.

The Attorney-General's Chambers is prosecuting Yee on two charges - for allegedly attacking Christianity with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of Christians and for purportedly transmitting an image electronically showing obscene figures.

The teen who is claiming trial, entered pleas of "not guilty" to the two charges.

A third charge, stood down for now, relates to the Protection from Harassment Act. It accuses him of making an online video containing offensive remarks about the late founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. The prosecution will assess whether to bring this charge at a later date.

Seated inside the packed courtroom yesterday were Yee's parents, Mr Law and prominent civil society activists Roy Ngerng, Andrew Loh and Teo Soh Lung. Earlier, Mr Law was one of the first to arrive at the State Court at 9.15am. He was followed by Mr Ngerng and Yee's mother, Mary Toh, 48. Yee's father came shortly after.

Mr Law, who was at the head of a queue to enter the courtroom, said he came to support the teenager: "I hope Amos gets a good trial. I never changed my mind about bailing him out. It was his decision and I respect it."

Yee was first remanded on April 17 after the judge at a pre-trial conference converted the $20,000 police bail that he had been on to court bail, requiring bail to be reposted, but his parents decided against posting bail.

Four days later, he was bailed out by Mr Law, who was hoping that the teen would be willing to be counselled.

Yee was sent back to remand last Thursday after Mr Law discharged himself following a breach by Yee of his bail terms. Yee, who was out on $20,000 bail, made two posts on his blog and shared those posts on his Facebook page.

At his pre-trial conference that Thursday afternoon, District Judge Kessler Soh asked Yee to take down his latest posts, but he refused.

The judge raised the bail amount from $20,000 to $30,000, with the same conditions. At the hearing, the prosecution also proposed that his trial be expedited.

The High Court, which heard a motion challenging Yee's bail conditions on Wednesday, upheld his current bail conditions, under which he cannot post any content online.

If convicted of uploading content online that contained remarks against Christianity with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of Christians, Yee could be jailed for up to three years and fined.

If convicted of transmitting electronically an image showing obscene figures, Yee faces imprisonment for up to three months and a fine.

The court has been adjourned till 2.30pm today following a request by Yee's lawyers for more time to look through the evidence submitted by the prosecution.

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