A TEENAGER arrested on Remembrance Sunday on suspicion of posting a picture of a burning poppy on Facebook is being questioned by police.
The 19-year-old was held after the image of a poppy being lit by a lighter was reportedly posted online with the obscene caption: "How about that you squadey c****".
Police said the man, from Canterbury, Kent, was detained on suspicion of an offence under the Malicious Communications Act after officers were contacted at around 4pm yesterday.
The arrest provoked a staunch defence of people's civil liberties, with campaign group Big Brother Watch calling on Kent Police to drop their investigation.
Jamie's Pants, under @thisisrjg, tweeted: "We do not have a right to not be offended. We certainly don't have a right to lock up someone for offending some people", while Thom Lumley, tweeting as @Hotstepperrr, wrote: "Dear idiots at Kent Police, burning a poppy may be obnoxious, but it is not a criminal offence."
David Allen Green, a journalist and lawyer for the New Statesman, tweeting as Jack of Kent, wrote: "What was the point of winning either World War if, in 2012, someone can be casually arrested by Kent Police for burning a poppy?"
Australian musician and comedian Tim Minchin also tweeted his incredulity, saying: "You've a right to burn a (fake!) poppy. Whether I agree with the action is utterly irrelevant. Kent Police are out of line."
Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, criticised the arrest as "utterly ridiculous".
He said: "Kent Police need to urgently release this man and drop an utterly ridiculous investigation into something that has harmed no-one.
"It is not illegal to offend people and, however idiotic or insensitive the picture may have been, it is certainly not worthy of arrest.
"The case highlights the urgent need to reform a law that poses a serious risk to freedom of speech after several ludicrous prosecutions in recent months."
In March last year, Emdadur Choudhury, a member of Muslims Against Crusades (MAC), was fined £50 after burning replica poppies on the anniversary of Armistice Day.
Choudhury had denied a charge under Section 5 of the Public Order Act of burning the poppies in a way that was likely to cause "harassment, harm or distress" to those who witnessed it.
But he was guilty of a "calculated and deliberate" insult to the dead and those who mourn them when he burned two large plastic poppies during a two-minute silence on November 11, a district judge sitting at Belmarsh Magistrates' Court said.
A spokeswoman for the Royal British Legion declined to comment today on the investigation in Kent.
Kent Police said in a statement: "Officers were contacted at around 4pm yesterday and alerted to the picture, which was reportedly accompanied by an offensive comment.
"Following an investigation by Kent Police, a 19-year-old Canterbury man was arrested on suspicion of an offence under the Malicious Communications Act. He is currently in custody."