Twitter user jailed and fined $6,500 for inciting financial crisis

May 16th, 2009 - 2:18 am ICT by John Le Fevre  

A Twitter user in Guatemala City has been handcuffed, fingerprinted and jailed for posting a 96-character message on the micro-blogging site causing a financial panic.

Jean Anleu Fernandez, a 37-year-old information technology worker, was arrested on orders from the Guatemala public ministry division in charge of banks after sending a tweet about Banrural, a bank at the centre of a murder mystery which has engulfed the government in a political storm.

The tweet, posted under his online name of “jeanfer”, said: “First concrete action should be remove cash from Banrural and bankrupt the bank of the corrupt.” The message ended with the tag “£escandalogt”, an online term for the political scandal.

Police who arrested Fernandez also seized his computer and he is currently languishing in jail until payment of $US6,500 is made after which he will be confined to his home pending trial.

Other Twitter users have reacted angrily to Fernandez’s arrest by retweeting the message and starting an appeal to pay his fine.

Latin America has a history of economic volatility and inciting financial panic is a crime in Guatemala. Fernandez’s arrest is believed to be the first of its kind in Latin America involving the micro-blogging platform.

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