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  • Published in Politics

Sokolovsky - Political Prisoner

The Memorial Human Rights Center has identified Ruslan Sokolovsky, a video blogger who was hunting Pokemons at the Church on Blood in Yekaterinburg, as a political prisoner, a post on this organization's website recently announced.

The Memorial Human Rights Center agrees with the assessment of the Sova Information and Analysis Center, whose experts claim that Sokolovsky's actions are not covered by Article 282 of the Criminal Code: the videos he published contained foul language against Christians and Muslims, but no calls for violence, the report says. Human rights activists believe that although Sokolovsky's statements should be condemned, they cannot be the basis for criminal charges and do not pose a serious threat to society.

"It is inappropriate to apply paragraph 2 of article 148 in Sokolovsky's case: none of the cathedral's visitors suffered any damage from the blogger's actions, and no damage was done to ceremonial objects," the organization points out.

Memorial demands the immediate release of Sokolovsky, who was sent back to prison on October 28 for "far-fetched reasons".

Ruslan Sokolovsky, who had been under house arrest, sat in jail till January 23; the court session was held behind closed doors. The blogger was arrested on September 2, after
posting a video of himself playing Pokémon Go inside the church, which was built on the royal family's execution site in 2003. He is accused of inciting religious hatred and offending the feelings of the faithful in places of worship (paragraph 1 of article 282 and paragraph 2 of article 148).

Commentary from Alexey Kozlov, the expert of the project

Obviously, Sokolovsky's actions do not constitute a crime. He could have been charged, at most, with an administrative offense. Recognizing the fact that Sokolovsky was prosecuted for political reasons is important for two reasons. First of all, this is a problem of abnormal pre-trial restrictions: Sokolovsky was sent to jail not to prevent him from evading justice, but to make sure he cannot continue his activities as a video blogger, i.e. his activities have already been punished by imprisonment. The second reason is the accusation of insulting the feelings of the faithful. We know that his could not have offended the feelings of the faithful, because no one understood what Sokolovsky was doing in the church. He is therefore sitting in jail for actions that did not insult anyone and did not cause any damage when they were committed.

Only his confession that he was catching Pokemons (was he really doing that?) subjects him to criminal liability. In fact, this is very close to a thought crime. For instance, what if someone enters a cathedral while listening to an anti-Christian band on his or her headphones? If this individual then writes about it on social networks, does it mean that he has offended the feelings of the faithful?

Sokolovsky's case clearly indicates the illegal nature of the law on insulting the feelings of the believers, who are apparently just looking for a reason to take offense.

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