Bangladesh 'blocks Facebook' over political cartoons

Protesters burn a Swedish flag in an anti-Facebook demonstration in Dhaka, Bangladesh (28 May 2010) Bangladeshis held an anti-Facebook protest last week

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Bangladesh has blocked access to Facebook after satirical images of the prophet Muhammad and the country's leaders were uploaded, say reports.

One man has been arrested and charged with "spreading malice and insulting the country's leaders" with the images, an official told the AFP news agency.

Officials said the ban was temporary and access to the site would be restored once the images were removed.

It comes after Pakistan invoked a similar ban over "blasphemous content".

A spokesman for the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC) told AFP Facebook had "hurt the religious sentiments of the country's majority Muslim population" by carrying "offensive images" of Mohammed.

"Some links in the site also contained obnoxious images of our leaders including the father of the nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the leader of the opposition," said the commission's acting chair, Hasan Mahmud Delwar.

On Saturday, one man was arrested by the elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) in Dhaka and charged with uploading the images.

"Facebook will be re-opened once we erase the pages that contain the obnoxious images," said Mr Delwar.

Pakistan blocked all access to Facebook - along with YouTube, Wikipedia and Flickr - last week after images of Muhammad started to appear online.

People were invited to submit their images of him in the run-up to "Everybody Draw Muhammad Day" held by some users of Facebook on 20 May.

Most Muslims consider representations of the Prophet Muhammad to be blasphemous.

Thousands of people joined anti-Facebook protests in Bangladesh on Friday demanding the site be blocked over the contest.

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