Case Narrative for Dennis Christensen
Dennis Christensen, 44, a Danish national and EU citizen, is imprisoned in Russia for practicing his religion.
He was arrested on 25th May 2017, in Oryol, by armed officers from the Federal Security Service (FSB) in a raid on a private worship service of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He was arrested alongside some fifty other worshippers who were later released without charge.
The raid and arrest came after Russia’s Supreme Court banned the Jehovah’s Witnesses in April, designating the group an “extremist organization.” Dennis is the first person to be detained following the ruling. This is also the first time that a Jehovah’s Witness has been jailed in the country since the Soviet Union.
“They arrested him merely for reading the Bible,” Yaroslav Sivulskiy, a Jehovah’s Witnesses spokesman in Russia, said. However, if convicted of being a member of an extremist organization, Dennis could face between six and ten years in prison under Article 282.2, part 1 of the Criminal Code.
In May, the Sovietsky District Court ordered him to be held in pre-trial detention for two months. An appeal was lodged to a higher court following that decision. On 20 July 2017, the Sovietskiy District Court of Oryol extended Mr. Christensen’s pre-trial detention for another four months to 23 November 2017.
However, his trial only began on 3 April 2018, meaning his pre-trial detention was extended by more than 4 months longer than the Sovietskiy District Court ordered in July.