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Amos Yee indicted in US on child porn charges

Amos Yee indicted in US on child porn charges

File photo of Amos Yee. (Photo: Reuters/Chris Kenning)

CHICAGO: Singaporean blogger Amos Yee has been indicted by a grand jury following charges of child pornography, a judge told Yee during a Chicago court appearance on Wednesday (Nov 4).

Yee, who was granted asylum in the United States three years ago, remains in Chicago’s Cook County jail on a US$1 million bond and is scheduled to be arraigned on the indictment on Nov 18.

Under US law, when a person is indicted, he is given formal notice that it is believed that he committed a crime. The accused is then arraigned, during which he is read the charges in the indictment and is asked to enter a plea.

"The grand jury has indicted you on this case," Judge Charles Beach told Yee during Wednesday’s remote hearing from the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago. The judge said that the "defendant demands trial".

Yee did not speak, except to say "thank you" to the judge.

US Marshals arrested Yee on Oct 14 at his apartment in Chicago’s Norwood Park East neighbourhood, charging him with child pornography and grooming. Police alleged that he exchanged nude photos with a 14-year-old Texas girl via WhatsApp, court officials confirmed.

The incidents took place between Feb 1 and Jun 30, 2019, they said. He reportedly exchanged "thousands" of texts.

While court documents were not immediately available for viewing, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that prosecutors alleged that their relationship had soured, and the girl reached out to a group "interested in exposing paedophiles", and that Homeland Security officials were notified.

In a previous hearing, Yee’s public defender was also reported to have described him as an "Internet troll" who is "all over the Internet saying fantastic things". Yee’s attorney could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Yee, previously jailed in Singapore for hate speech against Christians and Muslims, was granted asylum in the United States three years ago. If convicted, Yee could lose his asylum status and face deportation.

On Wednesday, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office said Yee remained incarcerated on the US$1 million bond. The bond requires him to post US$100,000. If he did so, he would be placed on electronic monitoring, a court spokeswoman said. 

In 2015, Yee was jailed in Singapore for hate speech against Christians, as well as for publishing an obscene image. The next year, Yee was jailed again and fined, this time for hate speech against Muslims and Christians.

He was granted asylum in the US in 2017 by a US immigration court despite opposition from the Department of Homeland Security.

Earlier this month, Singaporean activist Melissa Chen, who lives in New York and previously advocated for Yee, said in an Oct 16 Facebook post that she was told of the allegations and had alerted the US Department of Homeland Security. 

Source: CNA/dv(ac)

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