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'Pokemon Go' Blogger 'Shocked' At Russia's Call For 3 1/2-Year Prison Term

Ruslan Sokolovsky attends a court hearing in Yekaterinburg on March 15.

Russian prosecutors have called for a 3 1/2-year prison term for a blogger charged with inciting hatred for playing the game "Pokemon Go" in a church, a sentencing request that the defendant said was shocking.

The state prosecutor made the request on April 28 at the trial of Ruslan Sokolovsky, 22, in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg.

In his final testimony in a trial criticized by human rights groups, Sokolovsky said he was "really shocked by the prosecutor's request."

He urged the court to pronounce a more lenient sentence if he is found guilty, saying that his actions "had nothing to do with violence" and that he is not an extremist.

The judge then adjourned the trial, saying the verdict will be pronounced on May 11.

Sokolovsky was arrested in September after posting a video showing him playing Pokemon Go in a Russian Orthodox church in the Urals city in August, during a craze for the game app.

The post on Sokolovsky's YouTube channel, which had around 300,000 subscribers at the time, followed a warning on state television not to catch the virtual creatures at religious sites.

For the church video and others, he was charged with inciting hatred and offending the feelings of religious believers.

Amnesty International has denounced the prosecution of Sokolovsky as a "farcical attack on freedom of expression."

The blogger faces up to 7 1/2 years in prison if found guilty, though judges seldom impose sentences that exceed the prosecutors' recommendations.

Acquittals are very rare in Russian courts, which Kremlin critics say routinely do the bidding of President Vladimir Putin's government and regional authorities.

Sokolovsky is currently under house arrest.

With reporting by Mediazona and Interfax
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