Russian Man Sentenced to 3.5 Years in Prison for Playing Pokemon Go in Church

Russian video blogger Ruslan Sokolovsky was detained last fall after officials saw the video of him playing Pokemon Go inside an Orthodox church, citing religious hatred. Prosecutors requested 3 1/2 years in prison after the trial concluded on Friday, although Sokolovsky argued that the punishment does not fit the crime, “I may be an idiot, but I am by no means an extremist,” he added. The charge of inciting religious hatred is also the same offense which the Russian government used to arrest and imprison punk-rock collective Pussy Riot after the group staged a protest against Vladimir Putin at an Orthodox Cathedral in 2012.

Human rights group Amnesty International has sided with Sokolovsky, stating that he is being detained “solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression.” In Russia, Sokolovsky’s critics have argued that he was detained lawfully and that the evidence is in the video he posted himself. In the video, Sokolovsky, who is an atheist, walks inside the Church of All Saints in Yekaterinburg and jokes about not capturing the rarest “rarest Pokémon that you could find there — Jesus,”.

His critics may be technically correct under the eyes of Russian law. After the Pussy Riot incident, the Russian Parliament passed an anti-blasphemy law which carried a 3-year sentence for those convicted. According to Amnesty International, there are currently six men charged under that law last year not including Sokolovsly.


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