A Russian man is facing three and a half years of jail time for playing Pokemon GO in church after a state prosecutor demanded his imprisonment on the basis of inciting religious hatred using the Niantic Labs-made mobile game, a source from the competent court revealed on Friday. The 22-year-old Ruslan Sokolovsky was hit the charge after publishing an online video depicting him playing Pokemon GO in a Yekaterinburg church. The video that was posted last August also included some strongly worded comments on Christianity made by Sokolovsky, with the blogger comparing Jesus Christ to a Pokemon at one point. The 22-year-old was jailed shortly after publishing the video but his case has only now reached trial.
While addressing the court on Friday, the state prosecutor in charge of the case argued that Sokolovsky used the popular augmented reality (AR) mobile game to mock Christian values and consequently incite religious hatred, a claim that they've backed by citing some strong language used by the blogger in the video. Based on that accusation, the prosecutor requested that Sokolovsky is sentenced to serving in a penal colony for 42 months, adding that any exemption from liability would set a dangerous precedent and possibly encourage more people to follow suit. Sokolovsky told the court he's "in shock" due to the accusations, stating that authorities already jailed him for three months after the incident and are currently holding him under house arrest, implying he has already been sufficiently punished for what he thought was a joke.
The defendant also argued that he isn't a religious extremist and his intention wasn't to incite any kind of religious hatred. "Maybe I’m an idiot, but not in any way an extremist," Sokolovsky said, as evidenced by video footage of the proceedings seen by Reuters on Friday. Sokolovsky's supporters have previously compared the charges against the popular blogger to inquisition-like measures, though it's currently unclear whether the 22-year-old will truly end up serving the proposed sentence. An update on the situation is expected to follow shortly seeing how the competent Russian court is scheduled to rule on the matter next month, May 11.