Back in August, popular Russian YouTuber Ruslan Sokolovsky posted a video of himself playing Pokémon Go in the Church of All Saints in Yekaterinburg. He wanted to show viewers that people could be arrested for playing the popular game in a church, even though there was no harm in what they were doing.
And then he was arrested for playing the popular game in a church.
Sokolovsky was officially charged with “inciting hatred and offending religious sensibilities.”
We now know the potential cost of so-called “blasphemy.”
On Friday, the last day of the trial, prosecutors in Russia requested a sentence of 3½ years in prison for Sokolovsky.
Sokolovsky, now 22, protested that his potential punishment outweighed the crime.
“I may be an idiot, but I am by no means an extremist,” said Sokolovsky in a statement, according to the Russian news site Meduza. He compared his suggested prison sentence, for joking about the Orthodox Church, to those who had been imprisoned for decades under Joseph Stalin for joking about communism.
“For me, this is savagery and barbarism,” Sokolovsky’s statement continued, according to Meduza. “I do not understand how this is at all possible. Nevertheless, as we have seen, it is quite possible indeed.”
His actual sentence will be announced on May 11.
Just to state the obvious, punishing him at all would be too harsh. Spending more than three years in jail for this? That’s just religion and political dogma run amok.
Blasphemy, it has been said, is a victimless crime. Sokolovsky’s actions hurt nobody. And it’s appalling that religious leaders aren’t calling for his immediate release.
(Portions of this article were published earlier)