RUSSIA: Dennis Christensen found guilty – verdict to be appealed
Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia (06.02.2019) – https://bit.ly/2Bm4VoG – On February 6, 2019, Judge Aleksei Rudnev of the Zheleznodorozhniy District Court of Oryol, announced the verdict in the case of Dennis Christensen. Dennis Christensen was found guilty under Article 282.2 (1) of the criminal code for “organising the activity of an extremist organization.” He has been sentenced to 6 years in prison.
The decision has not entered into force. His lawyers believe the verdict is unreasonable and will be appealing the decision. Meanwhile, Dennis Christensen will remain in Detention Facility No. 1 in the Oryol Region, where he has already spent 622 days. He is able to receive letters of support.
“We deeply regret the conviction of Dennis Christensen,” said Yaroslav Sivulsky, a representative of the European Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses. “An innocent man who did not commit any real crime was convicted. It is sad that reading the Bible, preaching, and living a moral way of life is again a criminal offense in Russia.”
Additional comment: Paul Gillies, International Spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses
“Everyone acquainted with Dennis Christensen knows that he has committed no crime. He received a six-year prison sentence merely for practicing his Christian faith. This verdict reveals just how fragile religious freedom has become in Russia. Jehovah’s Witnesses will continue to appeal for justice while supporting their fellow worshippers.”
- In 2018, Dennis Christensen was adopted as a prisoner of conscience by the US Commission on International Freedom (USCIRF)
- HRWF Database of FORB Prisoners contains documented cases of 29 JW who were in prison last year. Some were afterwards put under house arrest but most of them are still detained. However, Russia is only ranked 41th on Open Doors 2019 World Watch List (https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/world-watch-list/russian-federation/)
– See as well Aid to the Church in Need 2018 Religious Freedom Report on Russia: https://religious-freedom-report.org/report/?report=790
– HRWF Database of FORB Prisoners also contains 7 cases of Said Nursi Followers (Muslim) and 4 cases of Tabligh Jamaat Muslims.
– In all, about 40 peaceful believers were in prison in Russia in 2018.
- Six-year prison term. His pretrial detention will be calculated 1.5x toward the sentence. Dennis Christensen will appeal the decision.
Case of Christensen in Oryol
Region: Oryol Region
Case number: 11707540001500164
Number of the case in court: 1-37/1
Current stage: trial in court of first instance
Suspected of: according to the investigation, together with the others he conducted religious services, which is interpreted as “organising the activity of an extremist organisation” (with reference to the court’s decision on the liquidation of the local organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses)
Article of the Russian Criminal Code: 282.2(1)
Case initiated: 23 May 2017
Investigating: Investigative Department of the Directorate of the FSB of Russia for the Oryol Region
Considering on the merits: Zheleznodorozhnyy District Court of the City of Oryol
Judge: Aleksei Nikolaevich Rudnev
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HRWF database of news and information on over 70 countries: http://hrwf.eu/newsletters/forb/
List of hundreds of documented cases of believers of various faiths in 20 countries: http://hrwf.eu/forb/forb-and-blasphemy-prisoners-list/