started this petition to
President Thein Sein of Myanmar [ Burma ]
Philip and his colleagues have been unjustly convicted. On December 10, Mr. Philip Blackwood, his bar manager Htut Ko Ko Lwin, and the owner of the bar/restaurant that he was managing, Tun Thurein, were "invited to the police station" to respond to a complaint the police has received about the Facebook advertisement that featured Buddha wearing headphones. On December 11, all three were officially arrested and detained by the Myanmar police. The charge! Violating Sections 295 and 295A of the Myanmar Penal Code, which in laymen terms is about "offending religion".
Mr. Blackwood did not have legal representation when he was charged, nor did he have any interpreter to explain what was going on. Three months later, they were found guilty, despite prosecution not having established intent on the side of the three accused. According to the Law of Crimes by Ratanjal & Dhirajlal (2002), "it must be distinctly proved that there was an intention on the part of the accused to insult the religion of a class of persons. This intention could be ascertained from the nature of the act done. When there is no intention to wound the religious susceptibilities there will be no offence." The prosecution did not, in any way, manage to prove intent on the part of Mr. Blackwood to offend religion. In fact, looking at the sequence of events that transpired prior to his arrest, considering that Mr. Blackwood has done the following, all show that there was no deliberate and malicious intention to outrage the religious feelings of the Buddhist people:1) Cancelled the event for which the image in question was used as an advertisement; 2) Deleted the image to try and mitigate potential wider spread of the image on social media; and 3) Issued three apologies (two of which have been deleted in an attempt to control the hateful and rude remarks from various social media users, which violated Facebook's guidelines. The judge's ruling that the three had "intentionally plotted to insult religious belief" was not founded on any concrete evidence at all. By law, the court should not have convicted Mr. Blackwood nor his colleagues and handed down a maximum penalty for violating Section 295 and 295A of the Myanmar Penal Code, as intent was never established. . A couple of human rights groups have condemned the court's ruling and have called for the unconditional release of Mr. Blackwood and his colleagues. Human Rights Watch: “By using the Religion Act to criminalise these three individuals, rather than accepting an apology and dealing with it in another way, the government is, sort of, setting up more witch hunts against persons that these Buddhist groups view as being insulting their religion.” Amnesty International - London:The conviction and prison sentence handed down today against two managers and the owner of a bar in Myanmar for displaying an image of the Buddha wearing headphones should be overturned immediately, and is a chilling indication of the growing climate of religious intolerance in the country.” Amnesty International - Southeast Asia and the Pacific:“It is ludicrous that these three men have been jailed simply for posting an image online to promote a bar,” he said in a statement on Tuesday. “They should be immediately and unconditionally released.” International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) - Asia and the Pacific:“As far as we can tell from the judgement and the material that are publicly available, the conviction violates international standards for imprisoning people for speech, seems to violate Myanmar’s own legal standards which require intent under Chapter 15. In terms of the priorities of the government in agreeing to go after these three people and to prosecute them in the way that it did, it is a very worrying further indicator of growing religious intolerance in the country". Releasing the three immediately will symbolise the willingness of Myanmar to embrace tolerance, diversity and freedom of expression, and will dispel any speculation that the government is using this incident to play the nationalist card in line with the upcoming elections. References: http://www.vice.com/read/is-1000-days-in-jail-for-a-facebook-post-as-harsh-as-it-sounds http://asiancorrespondent.com/131469/philip-blackwood-burma-cultural-insensitivity-or-a-religious-insult/ http://www.dvb.no/news/blackwood-family-devastated-intend-to-appeal-yangon-rangoon-burma-myanmar-buddhism/49284