A Russian YouTube blogger stood trial today for inciting hatred, as well as insulting “the religious convictions or feelings of citizens,” and if found guilty, could face as many as seven-and-a-half years in prison.
Authorities arrested Russian YouTuber Ruslan Sokolovsky — whose YouTube channel has over 300,000 subscribers — in September, 2016, after the blogger had posted a video in which he was playing “Pokemon Go” in a Yekaterinburg church during the previous month. Investigators also insisted that Sokolovsky had mocked Muslims, Christians, and feminists in eight other videos posted between 2013 and 2016, as reported by RFE/RL, Inc.
Sokolovsky pleaded “not guilty” Wednesday, March 13, to the charges of inciting hatred and offending citizens.
“If anyone felt offended by my video blogs, I am offering my sincere apologies to them,” said the blogger to the court. “I am a convinced atheist, but I do not have anything against religions … I am also a libertarian, which means that I am for equal rights for everyone.”
The high-profile YouTuber was placed on house arrest and then moved to pretrial detention when he violated house arrest by using his mobile phone and the Internet. A charge of “illegal possession of equipment for the secret acquisition of information” was added to Sokolovsky’s crimes when a pen containing a video camera was found in the man’s apartment.
Sokolovsky told reporters that he would not “repent” or apologize to the Russian Orthodox Church. Amnesty International called the blogger’s arrest a “farcical attack on freedom of expression.”
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