Comedian Stephen Fry has attended a court hearing to support a British man appealing his conviction over a tweet saying he would blow a snowed-in airport "sky high".
Paul Chambers, 27, from Doncaster, was convicted in May 2010 of sending a "menacing electronic communication" for a tweet that said: "Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your **** together, otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!"
Chambers has attracted the support of several British comedians and he was accompanied by Fry and stand-up comic Al Murray to his High Court appeal on Wednesday.
Fry said the outcome of the case would be "very important" for freedom of speech, the BBC reported.
"God I hope common sense and natural justice prevail," he later tweeted.
Chambers was fined NZ$1962 for his tweet, which he wrote when a snowstorm closed the airport and stopped him from flying to Northern Ireland to visit a woman he'd just met.
The Guardian reported the tweet was seen a week later by an off-duty airport worker who passed it on to authorities.
Chambers' barrister, John Cooper QC, told the appeal the message could not be defined as menacing or criminal, the BBC reported.
"We don't say it's a good joke but he shouldn't have been convicted over a bad one.
"At worst, the tweet was offensive."
The Guardian said Mr Cooper said if jokes were tested in courts, poet John Betjeman may have thought twice about writing "Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough", adding "and Shakespeare when he said 'kill all the lawyers'."
The Lord Judge replied: "That was a good joke in 1600 and it is still a good joke now."
Mr Cooper pointed to Chambers' use of exclamation marks, saying: "The expression 'you have a week and a bit' is hardly indicative of a threat intended to be menacing".
"His account was mainly humorous in tone and touched on a developing relationship.
"All those who followed him would have known this and would have realised the perspective from which this man was communicating."
Robert Smith, QC, for the Director of Public Prosecutions, said the tweet was "foolish".
"The question remains by whose standards and what members of the society would view this as a joke or humorous, given that members of society who had access to the message may not or would not have knowledge of the circumstance which led Mr Chambers to send the message."
Outside the court Mr Murray said the case had an impact on all Twitter users.
"The conviction is crazy, there is no other way of putting it," he said.
"It is like saying 'oh God, I could murder the boss', that's all there is to it. The law is being made to look absurd."
- Sydney Morning Herald