A Russian man might be spending years in prison after his trial wrapped up last week, after being arrested in 2016 for making a video about Pokémon Go while inside a church, a violation of the country’s laws against “inciting religious hatred”.
Last year, Ruslan Sokolovsky made a video inside the famous Church of All Saints in Yekaterinburg, in which the atheist made some jokes about not being able to catch Jesus. He begins the video questioning the country’s laws against mocking the Orthodox Church, even inserting a clip spelling out the fines and possible prison sentences for those caught breaking them.
Shortly after posting this video to YouTube, Sokolovsky was arrested and as the Washington Post reports, has been in detention ever since. His trial ended on Friday, and at its conclusion prosecutors asked that he receive the maximum sentence for his crimes: 3.5 years in prison.
“I may be an idiot, but I am by no means an extremist,” Sokolovsky says in a written statement posted by Russian news site Meduza. “A long time ago, people were imprisoned in camps and for longer terms – not for 3.5 years, but for decades – because they [foully] joked, for example, about communism and about Stalin. Now it turns out that they want to imprison me for 3.5 years [in real terms] because [I] obscenely joked about Orthodoxy and about Patriarch Kirill. For me, this is savagery and barbarism. I do not understand how this is at all possible. Nevertheless, as we have seen, it is quite possible indeed.”
Sokolovsky was arrested for violating the same law—criticised strongly by groups like Amnesty—that saw members of the punk group Pussy Riot imprisoned in 2012.
His sentencing is due on May 11.