Russian court convicts man who played Pokemon Go in Orthodox church | News | DW | 11.05.2017
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Russian court convicts man who played Pokemon Go in Orthodox church

The court has found a Russian blogger guilty of inciting religious hatred. The case of Ruslan Sokolovsky, who posted a video of himself playing the phone game in a church, also inspired an episode of "The Simpsons."

Solovosky was sentenced to three years and six months of probation on Thursday, in addition to community service. The prosecution had sought three-and-a-half year's jail time while the defense had argued for the suspended sentence.

"His guilt has been established," Judge Yekaterina Shoponyak said on Thursday in the Yekaterinburg courtroom as she handed down a suspended sentence to Sokolovsky.

The defendant expressed shock that prosecutors had pressed for a custodial sentence, the Tass news agency reported.

"I never infringed anyone's right or freedom to practice their religion," he said.  

In summer 2016, the 22-year-old blogger had posted a video of himself playing the popular phone app game "Pokemon Go" in an Orthodox church in Yekaerinburg, a city on the eastern side of the Ural mountains. The church, Church on Blood in Honour of All Saints Resplendent in the Russian Land, is the supposed place where Tsar Nicholas II and his family were killed in 1918.

Playing Pokemon and inciting hatred

The court found Sokolovsky guilty in nine instances of having violated a law that broadly defines inciting hate and hostility, denigrating human dignity, harming religious feelings and committing a public act that disrespects society.

In 2012, the same offense landed two women from the Pussy Riot punk collective in jail for two years.

Read more: Pussy Riot activist discusses Putin, protest and pop

In her ruling, Shoponyak stated that Sokolovsky's actions and anti-religious videos proved that the blogger "intended to offend religious sentiments."

"I may be an idiot, but I am not an extremist," Sokolovsky had said previously in his defense.

The trial unleashed sharp criticism from the Russian blogger scene and human rights organizations.

Russland Jekaterinburg Prozess Ruslan Sokolovsky (Imago/ITAR-TASS/D. Sorokin)

Media await the verdict of Russian blogger Sokolovsky

Simpsons Spin-off

The case also inspired an episode of "The Simpsons," in which Homer, the father in the popular American animated series, plays the fictional game Peekemon Get in a church. The episode aired on April 30 in the United States, prompting criticism from Orthodox clerics for the episode's potential to morally harm children.

The Russian cartoon channel 2x2 subsequently announced that they would not broadcast the episode in Russia.

"We don't show content that can compromise the channel or provoke an ambiguous reaction in society, that to put it simply breaks the country's legislation," the channel's public relations director, Anastasia Shablovskaya, told the AFP news agency.

Shablovskaya denied that the ban was due to church criticism. "The church has nothing to do with this," she said, then adding "the Russian Orthodox Church did not contact the channel directly."

Previously aired episodes of "The Simpsons" and "South Park" proved problematic for the channel, which was accused in 2008 of promoting extremism.

Read more: The Simpsons take stock of Trump

Karte Map Infografik Russland Russia Yekaterinburg ENG

Sokolovsky filmed his Pokemon playing in a church in Yekaterinburg

cmb/rc (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

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