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Russian blogger gets 3.5-year suspended sentence for ‘catching Pokemon’ in church

The court found Ruslan Sokolovsky guilty of inciting hatred, insulting religious feelings and illegal possession of special technical means - a pen with a video camera
Ruslan Sokolovsky Donat Sorokin/TASS
Ruslan Sokolovsky
© Donat Sorokin/TASS

YEKATERINBURG, May 11. /TASS/. A court in Russia’s Urals city of Yekaterinburg handed down a 3.5-year suspended sentence to blogger Ruslan Sokolovsky who played the popular Pokemon Go game in a local church, a TASS correspondent reported.

"The court ruled to give Ruslan Sokolovsky a 3.5-year suspended sentence," the judge said.

The court found no aggravating circumstances in the case and took into consideration the fact that Sokolovsky had apologized to the believers for the videos. The blogger has been ordered to delete all the videos that insult the believers’ feelings and banned him from taking part in mass events.

The state prosecutor had earlier requested a 3.5-year prison sentence for Sokolovsky.

In accordance with an expert evaluation, the court found Sokolovsky guilty of inciting hatred, insulting religious feelings and illegal possession of special technical means - a pen with a video camera.

According to the court, the blogger’s guilt is proved by scandalous videos and witnesses’ testimony. During the court hearings, Sokolovsky did not deny that he had been the author of these videos.

The blogger called the verdict "almost an acquittal." "In general, I’m glad that I remain free," Sokolovsky said.

Pokemon catcher’s case

In early August 2016, Sokolovsky filmed a video of himself catching Pokemon in Yekaterinburg’s Church on Blood built on the site, where the last Emperor of Russia Nicholas II and his family were murdered in 1918. The video stirred up a controversy among believers while a criminal case was initiated in accordance with the Russian Criminal Code’s articles citing incitement to hatred and enmity, denigrating human dignity, as well as violating the right to freedom of conscience and religion.

In September 2016, the blogger was detained and later placed under house arrest for two months.

In October 2016, Sokolovsky was taken to a pre-trial detention center for breaching the terms of his house arrest after the young man had posted a video on the Internet though he had been banned from using the web and mobile communications. His defense attorney filed an appeal against this decision but the Sverdlovsk Regional Court rejected it.

In January 2017, a new charge was brought against Sokolovsky under an article citing illicit trafficking in technical equipment, with the intent of covertly collecting information, since a pen containing a small camera had been uncovered during a search of his apartment.

Sokolovsky was placed under house arrest until August 14, 2017. During the interrogation of eyewitnesses, the blogger apologized to all worshippers who had complained about being offended.