Ruslan Sokolovsky was found “guilty of inciting hatred, violating religious feelings and illegal possession of special technical means – a pen with a video camera” for recording himself playing Pokemon Go on his phone in the Church of All Saints in Yekaterinburg last summer while carrying a piece of crap pencam from whatever the Russian equivalent of SharperImage is. He was detained and charged by authorities when the video of his mundane prank went viral.
“I believe that there is no reason to exempt the defendant from liability,” the Russian prosecutor said last month. “There is also no reason to sentence him to a fine … I request that the court sentence him to three-and-a-half years in a penal colony.” The judge apparently agreed to the max sentence, but ordered it suspended. Sokolovsky has already been sitting in prison for seven months.
The judge referenced Sokolovsky’s “disrespect for society,” “mockery of the immaculate conception,” “denial of the existence of Jesus and Prophet Muhammad,” and “giving an offensive description of Patriarch Kirill,” the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, in other videos. “Sokolovsky’s conviction caused outrage in Russia with many prominent figures describing it as a condemnation of atheism,” reports the AP, quoting Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s outrage.
This is the same blasphemy law used to prosecute Russian punk band Pussy Riot, three members of which were convicted — amidst considerable international outrage — of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” and imprisoned for several years following an anti-Putin performance in an Orthodox cathedral. Those women, however, served time.