Amnesty International is calling for the immediate release of a New Zealander and two other men jailed in Myanmar for insulting the Buddhist religion.
Philip Blackwood and two local men, Tun Thurein and Htut Ko Ko Lwin, were sentenced yesterday to two-and-a- half years in prison with hard labour for breaching Myanmar's Religion Act.
The trio ran the VGastro Bar in Yangon and were charged in connection with a flyer and online promotion for a drinks event. The promotion depicted Buddha wearing headphones and was posted on Facebook.
Philip Blackwood's family are "absolutely gutted" by the sentence.
His father Brian said he hoped common sense would prevail in the case. The family were considering appealing the ruling and were consulting lawyers, he said.
The families of those convicted alongside Mr Blackwood say it was all his doing, and it was unfair their relatives had also been found guilty.
A relative of Tun Thurein, Myat Nandar, put the blame for posting the picture firmly on Mr Blackwood.
"Mr Philip already admitted he's the one who did it from the day one. He didn't show it to anyone. He just posted by his own. So it's very clear, you know.
"And they just decided everybody's guilty. So I am very shocked and this is very unfair."
Amnesty International research director for South East Asia and the Pacific, Rupert Abbott, said the sentence was outrageous and is calling for the unconditional release of the men.
"These three men have been given the harshest penalty for something that shouldn't really be a crime at all.
"It's happened under a law that has absolutely no basis under international law."
Under the Religion Act, anyone who attempts to insult, destroy or damage any religion can be punished by a maximum of two years in jail. An additional penalty can also be added for insulting religion using the written word.
The case comes amid a surge in Buddhist nationalism in Myanmar - which emerged in 2011 from half a century of military rule - with monks forming groups aimed at promoting the country's Buddhist character.
The organisation Fortify Rights documents human rights abuses and advocates in Thailand and Myanmar.
Executive director Matthew Smith said the conviction was an attack on freedom of speech.
"The trial should have never happened in the first place. But certainly the condition in the sentencing is outrageous," he said.
"It's really indicative of the rising tide of this extremist form of Buddhist nationalism that we've been seeing in Myanmar for quite some time."
The head of human rights group Burma Campaign UK said he could not comprehend the punishment.
"It's a ridiculous sentence," said director Mark Farmener. "Two and half years just for a post with Buddha wearing headphones is completely unjustified.
"This is the Burmese (Myanmar) government with an eye to the elections later this year trying to play the Buddhist nationalist card, hoping it can help win it some public support."
Mr Farmener said the New Zealand government should pressure Myanmar to have Blackwood released.
New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has said it will not be intervening in the case.
A spokesperson said the New Zealand Embassy in Yangon and the ministry itself had been in contact with Philip Blackwood and his family and were providing consular advice and assistance.