Man Sentenced For Inciting Religious Hatred With Pokemon GO

YouTuber Ruslan Sokolovsky, who came under fire for recording himself playing Pokemon GO in a Russian church last year, has officially been given a prison sentence suspended for three and a half years. Formally, the charges against Sokolovsky included offending religious sensibilities, and possession of an illegal technical device, being the camera-equipped pen that he recorded the video with. Following the verdict, the YouTuber expressed gratitude to his online supporters and said that without them, he would likely have wounded up in prison. Per the terms of his suspended sentence, he is being placed on probation, meaning that if he spends the duration of the sentence without violating the terms of the probation or breaking any other laws, the court will close the case. Otherwise, he will spend the rest of the sentence in prison.

The original video was posted in response to vague Russian laws surrounding activities in religious establishments. Sokolovsky shot the video in the Church of All Saints in Yekaterinburg. In the video, he openly challenges the notion that his activities are against the law. While the Russian law does not specifically prohibit the use of a smartphone in church, it does prohibit offenses against religion, which such an activity could be construed as, and was in this case. It was contended that Sokolovsky's video depicted a disregard for societal and religious conventions and offended those around him in the church. Similar charges were laid on a Russian punk band who took the stage in a local church to sing a negative song about the Russian president Vladimir Putin in 2012, but their more direct approach to the disruption of normal church proceedings led to a two-year prison sentence.

Some Pokemon GO players have previously been extremely indulged in Niantic's game to the point of being asked to stop doing so at the Holocaust Museum and other inappropriate places, while pocket monsters were even found at top secret US military bases and in the Fukushima, Japan nuclear disaster area. Common sense, etiquette, and relevant laws have historically been stretched by the allure of the smartphone, and this will likely continue to be the case in the future.

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