(photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
A Russian state prosecutor asked a court to jail a blogger who played Pokemon Go inside a church for three-and-a-half years on Friday, saying he was guilty of inciting religious hatred, a court employee told Reuters by phone.
Ruslan Sokolovsky, 22, a popular blogger, last August posted a video online of himself playing Pokemon on his mobile phone inside a church in Yekaterinburg built on the spot where the last Russian tsar and his family were killed in 1918.
In the video, which contains strong language mocking Christianity, Sokolovsky likens Jesus Christ to a Pokemon character and says he had decided to play the popular game inside the church because he had seen a news report saying people who did so could be fined or jailed.
Soon after the video appeared, state prosecutors accused Sokolovsky of inciting religious hatred, the same charge used to successfully prosecute the Pussy Riot punk band in 2012 when they staged a cathedral protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"I believe that there is no reason to exempt the defendant from liability," the prosecutor told the court on Friday, the TASS news agency reported. "There is also no reason to sentence him to a fine ... I request that the court sentence him to 3.5 years in a penal colony."
A suspended sentence would create a dangerous impression of impunity, the prosecutor added.
Sokolovsky, who was previously confined to a pre-trial detention center, is currently under house arrest.
"I'm in shock," Sokolovsky told the court after listening to the prosecutor, video footage of the proceedings showed.
"I have been in jail, I was there for three months, and it is the doorway to hell.
“I do not consider myself an extremist, maybe I’m an idiot, but not in any way an extremist.”
Leonid Volkov, a prominent opposition activist, condemned the prosecutor's stance on social media, saying the sentence requested was far too harsh.
"It's some kind of hell. The full-on inquisition, the middle ages and (George Orwell's) 1984 rolled into one."
The court is expected to issue a verdict on May 11.