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Myanmar court jails three for insulting Buddhism

A Myanmar court has sentenced a New Zealand bar manager and his two business associates to two years and six months in prison for insulting Buddhism.

The trio was convicted for posting a flyer on social media that showed a psychedelic depiction of Buddha wearing headphones.

Phillip Blackwood, 32, Tun Thurein and Htut Ko Ko Lwin were given two years on Tuesday for insulting religion and six months for disobeying an order from a public servant.

The trial of V Gastro Bar manager Blackwood, bar owner Tun Thurein and employee Htut Ko Ko Lwin came as the predominantly Buddhist nation grapples with a surge of religious nationalism, including violence against members of the minority Muslim community.

The three were arrested in December after the image was used on Facebook to promote the tapas bar and lounge, and sparked outrage on social media.

The online ad was removed and an apology was posted, but the three men were detained in Myanmar’s notorious Insein prison.

About half a dozen monks and Buddhist nationalists gathered outside the Yangon court to hear the verdict.

After the sentencing, Blackwood told reporters as he was getting into a police lorry that he would appeal.

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