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Russian blogger convicted for playing ‘Pokemon Go’ in church

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A Russian blogger was convicted last August for playing the popular game “Pokemon Go” in an Orthodox church in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg.

A judge gave a suspended sentence of three-and-a-half years to Ruslan Sokolovsky, who was found guilty of inciting religious hatred and insulting the feelings of believers, the state RIA-Novosti news agency reported on Thursday.

The maximum sentence under a law that prevents the “violation of the right to freedom of conscience and belief” is at least seven years of imprisonment. However, the 22-year-old was let away easily as prosecutors only asked for half of that sentence.

“But, you know, I didn’t catch the rarest Pokemon that you could find there – Jesus,” Sokolovsky, says at the end of a YouTube video he posted of himself playing the game. “They said it doesn’t even exist, so I’m not really surprised.”

Sokolovsky, in the video, can be seen dismissing warnings given out by the Russian media that playing games in the church could result in a jail term.

Judges in the country had awarded a two-year jail term to two women from the punk-rock collective Pussy Riot for staging a protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin at an Orthodox cathedral in Moscow in 2012. Sokolovsky also faces the same charges.

While convicting Sokolovsky, the judge said that he has insulted not just Christians, but also Muslims. He added that the 22-year-old blogger’s actions had sent a message of hatred to the church and its leader, Patriarch Kirill, according to RIA-Novosti.

Sokolovsky, however pleaded not guilty and expressed shock at his conviction, according to RIA-Novosti reports.

“I may be an idiot, but I am by no means an extremist,” said Sokolovsky in a statement earlier this year, according to the Russian news site Meduza. Sokolovsky also compared the charge levied against him to those imposed under Joseph Stalin for joking about communism.

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