Russian blogger convicted for playing 'Pokemon Go' in church

Friday, 12 May, 2017

Russian YouTuber and blogger Ruslan Sokolovsky has recently been found guilty for playing Pokemon GO in a church and uploading a video onto YouTube which pretty much served as evidence.

A court in Yekaterinburg today gave the 22-year-old blogger a three-and-a-half year suspended prison sentence for "inciting hatred" and "offending believers' feelings".

The video in question has been viewed nearly 2 million times.

Civil rights groups, including Amnesty International, have condemned the court's decision.

The prosecution called for him to be imprisoned for 32 months, but he was given a suspended sentence.

In the clip, Sokolovsky refers to news reports warning people not to play the game in the church, but says: "How can one offend by entering a church with a smartphone?"

Apparently, Sokolovsky just wanted to prove that playing Pokemon Go in a church is neither offensive nor against state laws.

Sokolovsky's treatment has drawn comparisons with the jailing of the Pussy Riot performance artists after they staged a punk performance in a Moscow cathedral in 2012.

"I was born and grew up in the Soviet Union where 98 per cent of citizens were atheists", opposition leader Alexei Navalny said on Twitter while the hearing was being webcast.

A judge deemed comments Sokolovsky made in the video "disrespectful" and "intended to offend religious sentiments". He published the video after Russian authorities warned there could be legal action taken against those using smartphones in church services.

In a statement to the BBC, Sokolovsky mentioned that the way he presented his video was "too cynical for Russian society".

When it came time to face the judge, he pleaded not guilty and said the charges against him are reminiscent of those who were imprisoned for making communism jokes while Joseph Stalin was in power.

The trial unleashed sharp criticism from the Russian blogger scene and human rights organizations.