Russian blogger convicted for playing 'Pokemon Go' in church

Russian blogger convicted for playing 'Pokemon Go' in church

By NATALIYA VASILYEVA, Associated Press

MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian blogger was convicted on Thursday of inciting religious hatred for playing "Pokemon Go" in a church, and given a suspended sentence.

Ruslan Sokolovsky posted a video on his blog last year showing him playing the smartphone game in a church built on the supposed spot where the last Russian czar and his family were killed in the city of Yekaterinburg. He has been in detention since October.

Judge Yekaterina Shoponyak earlier this month found Sokolovsky guilty of inciting religious hatred and gave him a 3 ½-year suspended sentence.

Sokolovsky's behavior and his anti-religious videos manifested his "disrespect for society," Shoponyak said in televised remarks, adding that Sokolovsky "intended to offend religious sentiments."

The judge pointed out that the 22-year-old video blogger was on trial not only for playing the game in the church but also for posting several videos that offended believers. She listed "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.

Speaking to reporters after the verdict Sokolovsky thanked the media for raising the alarm about the trial, which has been widely described as a witch hunt: "I would probably have been sent to prison if it wasn't for the journalists' support."

Once an officially atheist state, Russia has made a stunning turnaround since the fall of the Soviet Union, with the majority of Russians now identifying themselves as Orthodox Christians. Although most Russians are not observant, the Kremlin has been eager to harness faith to promote its own agenda.

Photo: Russian blogger Ruslan Sokolovsky and his mother Yelena Chingina, left, listen to a sentence in a court in Yekaterinburg, Russia, on Thursday, May 11, 2017. Sokolovsky has been convicted for inciting religious hatred for playing “Pokemon Go” in a church and given a suspended sentence. (Alexei Bulatov/ Komsomolskaya Pravda photo via AP)

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