Singapore blogger investigated for Christ cartoons

Singapore - Singapore police are investigating allegations that a man published offensive caricatures of Jesus Christ on his Web site, reports and police said Wednesday.

The 21-year-old man started posting the cartoons in January - the first one depicted Jesus as a zombie biting a boy's head, The Straits Times said in a report.

He later published another three drawings, the report said.

"I never thought anyone would complain to the police because the pictures were not insidious,'' the man was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

His identity remains anonymous as the police are still conducting their investigations.

Police confirmed the investigation was ongoing and warned of the penalties for inciting racial or religious hatred.

"It is a serious offense for any person to distribute or reproduce any seditious publication which may cause feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Singapore,'' the police said in a statement.

Offenders may be liable to imprisonment of up to three years or a fine not more than Singapore $5,000 (US$3,129, euro2,489) or both, it said.

In 2005, three men were charged under the Sedition Act for making racist remarks on their Web sites, resulting in jail time for two of them.

The previous cases were also the first time Singaporeans had been prosecuted and convicted for racist expression under the Sedition Act - a colonial-era law used by the British to fight a communist insurgency - since the city-state's independence in 1965.

Critics say the restrictions on expression in tightly controlled Singapore has spawned an increasing number of blogs where citizens can air their views.

But, Singapore's prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, has said his government will act against anyone who threatens racial and religious harmony, whether on the Internet or in any other forum.

In January, cartoons of Islam's Prophet Muhammad published in European and other western newspapers sparked violent protests across the Muslim world.