PACE Observers Called for Christensen Release Without Waiting for an Appeal

Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). Photo: Adrian Grycuk / CC BY-SA 3.0 PL

On February 7, 2019, observers of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) expressed serious concern about the six-year sentence handed Dennis Christensen. They stated: “Mr. Christensen’s conviction and imprisonment for nothing more than peacefully practicing his faith is an unacceptable violation of the right to freedom of religion."

The co-rapporteurs “expressed their hope that Mr. Christensen’s conviction would be overturned without delay by the appeals court and called on the Russian authorities to release him pending an appeal."

The report emphasized that the European Court of Human Rights has already, on previous occasions, ruled in favor of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ right to worship without interference from the Russian authorities. In addition, the PACE organization itself has previously expressed concern about the abuse of the law on countering extremism by Russian officials. Thus, on April 21, 2017, PACE stated, among other things: “The recent decision of the Supreme Court to declare the Jehovah’s Witnesses Administrative Center in the Russian Federation an extremist organization, and to close it down, together with the 395 Local Religious Organizations used by Witnesses, raises serious concerns regarding freedom of religion in Russia and is another example of the legislation against extremism being abused to curtail freedom of expression and assembly.” (source).

Case of Christensen in Oryol

Region:
Oryol Region
Locality:
Oryol
Case number:
11707540001500164
Current stage:
trial in appellate court
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)
Investigating:
Investigative Department of the Directorate of the FSB of Russia for the Oryol Region
Case initiated:
23 May 2017

Number of the case in court: 1-37/1

Considering on the merits: Zheleznodorozhnyy District Court of the City of Oryol

Judge: Aleksei Nikolaevich Rudnev

Appellate Court: Oryol Regional Court

Persons in the case