Russian Pokemon hunter found guilty of "inciting religious hatred"

A young blogger posted a video of himself playing Pokemon GO in a Russian Orthodox church, leading to his arrest and conviction. He was given a suspended sentence, ordered to do community service, and released.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Ruslan Sokolovsky was dubbed a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.

A Russian court on Thursday gave a suspended three-and-a-half-year jail sentence to a blogger who was detained after he played the Pokemon GO video game inside a Russian Orthodox church last year.

Ruslan Sokolovsky was found guilty of inciting religious hatred after posting a video on YouTube where he is seen playing Pokemon GO on his cell phone in the church.

In the video, which contains strong language mocking Christianity, Sokolovsky likens Jesus Christ to a Pokemon character and says he decided to play the popular game inside the church because he saw a news report saying people who did so could be fined or jailed.

The court in the Urals region city of Yekaterinburg also sentenced 22-year-old Sokolovsky to 160 hours of compulsory community service and told him not to show up in public places.

"I'm content. I won't play Pokemon, it's already out of fashion," Sokolovsky said after the sentencing.

The video has been viewed more than 1.9 million times.

Prisoner of conscience

The self-described atheist was dubbed a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. He was detained and charged with "inciting hatred" and "insulting the feelings of religious believers" before being put on trial.

Soon after the video appeared, state prosecutors charged Sokolovsky under the same law used to successfully prosecute the Pussy Riot punk band in 2012 when they staged a cathedral protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Sokolovsky was met by a group of young people who clapped as he left the Yekaterinburg courtroom, including one dressed as a Pokemon character.

TRTWorld and agencies