14 October 2016
The defence for the arrested blogger Ruslan Sokolovsky has complained about linguistic expertise findings. According to the lawyer, the expert evaluation was carried out with a multitude of procedural violations. They blamed Sokolovsky for “insulting the feelings of believers,” OVD-Info reports, citing Znak.com. As the publication states, the senior lecturer of the department of advertising, Yulia Tagiltseva, found in Sokolovsky’s video clips “evil intent, aimed at offending the feelings of both Christians and Muslims” and for inciting ethnic hatred.
The blogger’s lawyer, Aleksei Bushmakov, states that the expert evaluation was carried out with significant procedural violations: Tagiltseva signed the formal warning that she would be liable for knowingly giving a false conclusion only after the completion of the evaluation. Moreover, the inquiry drafted the questions for the expert evaluation in a way forbidden by the Russian Supreme Court.
For example “whether they contain utterances of signs of enmity or anything else”, since the expert is not able to answer questions such as this. The defence suggested their own questions for the expert evaluation, but were refused.
On 3rd September 2016 Ruslan Sokolovsky was remanded in custody for two months. The authorities began action against the blogger after he made a video on finding a Pokemon in Ekaterinburg Cathedral and posted it on his YouTube channel. In this way he protested against ill-founded restrictions, in particular against the ban on playing Pokemon Go in places of worship.
Later the blogger complained about threats made by a psychiatrist in the remand centre, and Amnesty International recognised Ruslan Sokolovsky as a prisoner of conscience.
Amnesty International has stated: “The prosecution of Sokolovsky became possible thanks to the passing of the 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 shouldn’t catch “pokémon” 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.”
John Dalhuisen, director of Amnesty International for Europe and Central Asia, has said: ““The absurdity of the case of the Russian blogger jailed for playing Pokemon Go in a church highlights what happens when authorities hold the freedom of expression in such low regard. Even if Sokolovsky’s behaviour may have been regarded as disrespectful by some, states should not be jailing people simply for offending religious sensibilities.”
Translated by Frances Robson
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