Russian blogger sentenced to 3.5 years' jail for playing 'Pokemon Go' in church
Ruslan Sokolovsky, a blogger who was found guilty by a Russian court for playing Pokemon Go inside an Orthodox church, leaves a court following his sentencing in Yekaterinburg, Russia, May 11, 2017. Reuters

A Russian blogger was convicted on Thursday for playing "Pokemon Go" in a renowned Orthodox cathedral in the city of Yekaterinburg last August. Ruslan Sokolovsky has been given a three-and-a-half year suspended sentence for "violating religious feelings".

Last year, Sokolovsky posted a video on his blog that showed 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.

At the end of the video, the blogger said: "But, you know, I didn't catch the rarest Pokemon that you could find there – Jesus." Sokolovsky added that "they said it doesn't even exist, so I'm not really surprised."

The state RIA-Novosti news agency reported that the court in Russia's fourth-largest city of Yekaterinburg found Sokolovsky guilty of inciting religious hatred and insulting the feelings of believers. Judge Yekaterina Shoponyak said that Sokolovsky's behavior and his anti-religious videos manifested his "disrespect for society".

The judge noted that the 22-year-old video blogger was on trial not only for playing augmented reality 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.

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.

According to RIA-Novosti reports, Sokolovsky, however pleaded not guilty and expressed shock at his conviction. He said he had already apologised to religious believers, adding that the way he delivered his video was "too cynical for Russian society".

"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.