Russian blogger given 3.5-year suspended jail sentence for playing Pokémon Go in church

The court found him guilty of inciting hatred, among other things There have been plenty of stories about Pokémon Go fans playing the game...

The court found him guilty of inciting hatred, among other things

There have been plenty of stories about Pokémon Go fans playing the game in locations that should probably be avoided, but they're nothing compared to the situation of one Russian blogger, who has just been given a three-and-a-half-year suspended sentence for videoing himself playing the AR title in a church.

22-year-old Ruslan Sokolovsky, from the Ural Mountain city of Yekaterinburg, was found guilty of insulting religious believers and inciting hatred by the local court. Back in 2016, he posted footage of himself playing Pokémon Go in the city’s Church of All Saints - built in remembrance of Tsar Nicholas II and his family. Russian authorities said it showed a “disrespect for society.”

According to Russian news agency TASS, the judge said: “In accordance with the expert evaluation, the court found blogger Sokolovsky guilty of inciting hatred, violating religious feelings and illegal possession of special technical means - a pen with a video camera.” Sokolovsky said the pen wasn’t his, and that it contained a light bulb, not a camera.

Sokolovsky posted the video in response to the Russain government’s crackdown on people deemed to have committed acts that offend religious sensibilities. "Who could get offended if you're just walking around with your smartphone in a church?" he asks at the start of the clip.

A few weeks after it was uploaded, police entered his apartment using keys from the landlord and placed Sokolovsky under house arrest. In October, he was taken to a pre-trial detention center for breaching the terms of his arrest.

Prosecutors had called for Sokolovsky, who repeatedly apologized to anyone who was offended by his video, to be jailed for three-and-a-half years. The BBC reports that he was visibly relieved when the suspended sentence was announced. "Without the support from reporters, I would possibly have been given a real prison sentence," he said.

Sokolovsky has now been placed under house arrest until August 14, 2017.


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