Custody for Sokolovsky extended

<< No 4 (237), 30 January 2017 >>

• On 19 January 2017 the Verkh-Isetsky district court in Ekaterinburg agreed to a request by investigators to extend pre-trial custody for the video blogger Ruslan Sokolovsky until 23rd February 2017, Аgora reports, citing Sokolovsky’s lawyer, Aleksei Bushmakov •

It has similarly become known, that a new criminal investigation is underway regarding Sokolovsky “on the illegal sale of specialist technical equipment, intended for the clandestine gathering of information” (Article 138.1 of the Russian Criminal Code). The grounds for this came from the discovery of a pen with a video camera during a search of the video blogger’s home.

During the hearing the lawyer Bushmakov focussed on the doubts in the case regarding his defendant’s participation in the crime of which he stands accused, and called the reasoning of the investigator, in support of his petition on the extended detention, as baseless and pleaded for it to be turned down.

Meanwhile, as the lawyer Aleksei Bushmakov said, the chair of the expert council on the implementation of theological expertise of the Ministry of Justice for the Sverdlovsk region, a specialist from the theology faculty in the philosophy department of the Institute of Social Sciences and Arts, Evgenia Ivanova, a professor and doctor of philosophical sciences, did not find signs of offensive language, disparagement, agitation or incitement of hostility towards groups of people after studying the Sokolovksy’s video materials and online materials in the case.

“According to this assessment, all materials, apart from one video and journal, contain religious subject matter,” the lawyer Bushmakov commented. “In none of the materials are there any indications of propaganda of religious superiority or religious exclusivity. There is absolutely no form of hate ideology, no plan or programme of action, no calls to actions rousing hatred and discord; the materials under investigation do not contain any justification or validation of any kind of actions of this kind at all. As the experts have established, Sokolovsky has not carried out any public actions expressing a clear contempt for society, committed with the aim of insulting religious feelings of believers.”

On 3rd November 2016 the Sverdlovsk Regional Court turned down the appeal against the decision to remand video blogger Ruslan Sokolovsky in custody, as opposed to his preceding confinement in house arrest. The decision of the Kirov district court in Ekaterinburg to prolong his detention until 23rd January 2017 came into force. The official grounds for the decision was the visit of his fiancé to the video blogger during his house arrest, when she came to wish Sokolovsky a happy birthday!

The 21-year-old law student and video blogger Ruslan Sokolvsky is accused of “insulting the feelings of believers” (Article 148, Section 2, of the Russian Criminal Code) and “inciting hatred or enmity, as well as degrading human dignity” (Article 282 Russian Criminal Code).

Ruslan Sokolovsky has been subjected to criminal investigation for posting a YouTube video on his channel in which, with the help of a mobile app, he was playing the popular game Pokemon Go in an Orthodox church – the Church-on-the-Blood in Ekaterinburg. After Sokolovsky was first remanded in custody, Amnesty International recognised him as a prisoner of conscience.

Translated by Frances Robson

HRO.org  17 January 2017

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