Danish Jehovah's Witness gets 6 years for 'extremism' in Russia

Blanche Robertson
February 8, 2019

The Oryol court overseeing Christensen's case ruled him guilty of facilitating activities for an "extremist organization", according to Reuters.

"Deeply concerned by the six-year sentence imposed on Jehovah's Witness Dennis Christensen", she tweeted. "It is sad that reading the bible, preaching, and living a moral way of life is again a criminal offense in Russia", Sivulskiy said in a public statement on Wednesday. He was detained by police in late May 2017, becoming the first Jehovah's Witness to be arrested after the Supreme Court's controversial ruling.

Christensen, who moved to southern Russia as an adult and has a Russian wife, insisted in closing remarks last week that he had "never committed any criminal acts". "Jehovah's Witnesses will continue to appeal for justice while supporting their fellow worshippers", said Paul Gillies, global spokesman for Jehovah's Witnesses, in a statement provided to The Daily Caller News Foundation.

The man's lawyer, Anton Bogdanov, said he planned to appeal the verdict, which he described as an illegal decision and part of Russia's fight against religious freedom.

"His case is emblematic of the grave human rights violations including the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and religion in the country".

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Dennis Christensen is escorted inside a courthouse following the verdict announcement.

Amnesty International has said that it considers Christensen and other Jehovah's Witnesses on trial as prisoners of conscience. While it is a far cry from the mass deportation of Jehovah's Witnesses to Siberia in Soviet times, the growing number of believers here have faced raids, arrests and bans by local courts in the past decade.

Christiansen moved to Murmansk in northern Russian Federation in 2000 where the Jehovah's Witnesses were already well established and met his wife Irina there. Under Stalin, hundreds of their leaders were jailed and thousands were deported to Siberia in 1951 after much of their property was confiscated.

Christensen has also filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights for unlawful interference with his right to freedom of religion, according to Human Rights Watch.

Under a gospel of "traditional values", Russian President Vladimir Putin has forged close relations with the Russian Orthodox Church, which sees Jehovah's Witnesses as a heretical sect.

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