12/11/2012 01:47 GMT | Updated 12/11/2012 05:32 GMT

Man Arrested For 'Posting Image Of Burning Poppy On Facebook'

A man has been arrested for posting an image of a burning poppy on Facebook.

Kent Police said in a statement that the man, from Aylesham, was detained last night on suspicion of making malicious telecommunications and that he was in custody awaiting interview.

Kent Police said the suspect, a 19-year-old man from Canterbury, will be questioned over the posting on Facebook later on Monday.

The force said in a statement: "A man is due to be interviewed by police this morning following reports that a picture of a burning poppy had been posted on a social media website.

"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."

The photo, posted on the Kent 999s Twitter account, of the alleged offence, appears to show a man holding a lighter next to a paper poppy.

Paidraig Reidy, news editor of Index on Censorship, commented on Twitter: "This really does feel like some medieval hysteria now."

The arrest was met with incredulity on Twitter, where people mounted a fierce discussion over civil liberties.

It prompted the hashtag 'poppycock' as many on the site criticised Kent Police.

Nick Pickles, director of civil liberties campaign group 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.

"This 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."

The arrest is the latest in a series of arrests centring on the desecration of the Remembrance Day symbol and insulting British servicemen.

In March 2011, Emdadur Choudhury, a member of Islamist group Muslims Against Crusades, was convicted after burning poppies in public in London, and exactly a year later, another man Azhar Ahmed was arrested for a Facebook post suggesting that British soldiers would go to hell.

The Crown Prosecution Service is drafting interim guidelines for prosecution of offences on social media.