CHICAGO A Singaporean blogger who has stirred controversy in his home country is being detained by U.S. immigration officials, the Department of Homeland Security said on Friday.
Amos Yee, 18, who was jailed earlier this year in the Southeast Asian city-state, was stopped by customs agents at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on Dec. 16 as he sought political asylum in the United States, his mother said.
“Amos is being detained in the US right now. He is seeking political asylum in the US. The matter is now with his lawyers. I will not be speaking to the press or anyone on this matter,” Mary Toh, Yee’s mother, said in a statement posted to Facebook on Friday evening Singapore time.
Yee has been jailed twice in Singapore for online comments. His trials, which have been closely watched by rights groups and the United Nations, have fuelled the debate in Singapore over censorship and the limits of free speech.
Yee is in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) pending federal immigration court proceedings, Gail Montenegro, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in an email.
Montenegro declined to provide further details of why Yee was detained, where he was being held or if he had any legal representation.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Ralph Piccirilli also said the agency had “encountered” Yee, but declined further comment.
The Singapore embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In September, Yee pleaded guilty to six charges of deliberately posting comments on the internet – in videos, blog posts and a picture – that were critical of Christianity and Islam. He was sentenced to six weeks in jail.
Last year, Yee was convicted on charges of harassment and insulting a religious group over comments he made about former premier Lee Kuan Yew and Christians soon after Lee’s death. His sentence at the time amounted to four weeks in jail.
(Additional reporting by Fathin Ungku in Singapore; Editing by Andrew Hay)