HRWF / JW.ORG (27.10.2020) – The Lgov District Court of the Kursk Region has again denied the early release of Dennis Christensen, who has spent over three years in prison since being arrested on May 25, 2017. He has ten days to appeal. Dennis’ original sentence should finish in May 2022. His end date includes a credit for time spent in pretrial detention. However, last month the prison commission labeled him as a “malicious violator” of the facility’s protocol. Thus, his pretrial credit is now at risk and he could remain in prison beyond May 2022.
Jarrod Lopes, spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses, states: “This is very sad news for Dennis, his wife, Irina, and the millions around the world who have been closely following his three-year legal battle. Dennis has been applying for early release since October 2019. The prison administration has persisted in sabotaging Dennis’ parole applications by falsely accusing him of misconduct. It is inconceivable the way the court, the prosecutor’s office, and the prison have trifled with an innocent man’s life. We hope that a higher level of Russia’s judicial system will soon right the wrong done to Dennis.”
- Dennis has qualified to apply for early release from his six-year sentence since May 2019. This is because he spent some 2 years in pretrial detention and, according to Russian law, pretrial detention is applied 1.5 times toward his sentence.
- On June 23, a judge ruled to parole Dennis, while also fining him 400,000 rubles (US$5,714). The prosecutor’s office appealed, arguing Christensen allegedly violated prison rules. Three days after the June 23 ruling, prison officials placed Dennis in a special punishment cell for so-called violations of prison rules.
- Dennis’ health has deteriorated while in prison. He contracted pneumonia. Although he recovered, he still suffers from a compromised immune system. According to his lawyer, the prison authorities claim that Dennis’ medical records were “lost.” The authorities have been using this as a pretext to discontinue his medical treatment.
- Dennis is the first of over 190 Jehovah’s Witnesses who have spent time in prison or pretrial detention in modern Russia.
- See link to infographic.
- Dennis’ lawyer, Anton Bogdanov: firstname.lastname@example.org; or call +7903-45-43-037
International outcry | “Travesty of Justice”
The following are a few of the many examples of the international call for Russia to release Dennis:
- Amnesty International (February 2019; June, July, and September 2020)
- USCIRF (May 2019; July 2020)
- European Union
- Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
- UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet
- Human Rights Watch (February 2019; July 2020)
Nationwide persecution (Russia and Crimea)
398 under criminal investigation
50 in prison (10 convicted; 40 pretrial detention)
27 under house arrest
1,163 homes raided since 2017 Supreme Court ruling (366 homes raided in 2020—even during the COVID-19 pandemic)