A dual NZ-British citizen jailed in Burma for using an image of the Buddha to promote his bar has been "abandoned" by the British Foreign Office, according to human rights campaigners.
Phil Blackwood was sentenced to 2 years with hard labour by a Burmese court last month after posting the mocked-up image of the Buddha wearing DJ headphones on Facebook. The tongue-in-cheek advert for a cheap drinks night at the VGastro bar in Rangoon provoked outrage among devout Buddhists.
The 32-year-old bar manager, who has dual New Zealand and British nationality, was found guilty of insulting religion along with the bar's Burmese owner and another manager, despite apologising profusely for posting the picture.
All three were given the same sentence. MPs and human rights campaigners said Mr Blackwood, who is married with a young daughter, is enduring appalling conditions in the notorious Insein prison.
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They also claimed the British Government had turned its back on Mr Blackwood, who lived in Middlesbrough until his family moved to New Zealand when he was 4.
Last night, his father, Brian, insisted that the family had informed the British authorities of his son's dual nationality. Although New Zealand diplomats were taking the lead, he said the family expected the Foreign Office to exert pressure on Burma.
Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald said: "Philip Blackwood has been unjustly imprisoned for an honest mistake."
A British Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman said: "Our embassy in Rangoon has provided advice and support to the New Zealanders on Mr Blackwood's case."
- Daily Mail