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 learned last month 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.”
Today, he was given his actual sentence… and while it sounds pretty awful, keep in mind that even Sokolovsky is relieved by it.
A Russian blogger has been given a three-and-a-half year suspended sentence after he posted a video of himself playing Pokemon Go in a church…
On Thursday, Sokolovsky was also found guilty of “illegal trafficking of special technical equipment” after a pen with a built-in video camera had been discovered during the search of his home.
During the trial, the prosecution had asked for Sokolovsky to be jailed for three-and-a-half years.
After the verdict was announced, the blogger said he was relieved.
“Until the very last moment I didn’t know what the sentencing would be, that’s why I was very nervous and feared I would get a real prison term,” he told BBC Russian.
The “suspended sentence” means he won’t be sent to prison for now. He’s basically on probation for the next few years.
Still, punishing him at all is too harsh. This is what happens when 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 weren’t defending him every step of the way. Imagine how bad the sentence would’ve been if this story didn’t get worldwide attention.
(Large portions of this article were published earlier. Thanks to Chinmay for the link)