Russian blogger faces jail for playing Pokémon Go in a church

By agency reporter
September 7, 2016

The detention of Ruslan Sokolovsky – a Russian blogger from Yekaterinburg who has been sentenced to administrative arrest for two months after posting a video of himself playing Pokémon Go in a church – is a farcical attack on freedom of expression, says Amnesty International.

Sokolovsky was arrested on 3 September 2016 on charges of "preventing the realisation of the right to freedom of conscience and religion and incitement of hatred" under Russia's so-called 'blasphemy law'. This was adopted in 2013 as a response to the political performance by members of the Pussy Riot group in the central cathedral in Moscow. The law criminalised actions that offend believers' feelings and represented a significant encroachment on freedom of expression in Russia.

Sokolovsky deliberately went to play Pokémon Go in the church on 11 August following a warning made earlier on Russian state television that people should not  attempt to catch pokémons at religious sites or in proximity to the state border as they might face criminal charges for doing so.

If convicted under the blasphemy law, Sokolovsky could be sentenced to up to five years in prison.

Amnesty International's Europe and Central Asia Director John Dalhuisen said: "Even if Sokolovsky's behaviour may have been regarded as disrespectful by some, states should not be jailing people simply for offending religious sensibilities."

* Amnesty International https://www.amnesty.org.uk/

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