Photo: Dennis Christensen outside the building of Jehovah's Witnesses in Orel, 2009

Criminal Investigation and Trial

Whether the Danish believer will be released from custody, the court in Oryol decides

Oryol Region

On July 20, 2017, at 10:30 a.m., the Sovetskiy District Court of Oryol begins a hearing on further restraint for an innocent Jehovah's Witness, a Danish citizen, who has been languishing in the Oryol pre-trial detention center since May 25 just because he read the Bible with fellow believers. He is charged with violating Article 282.2 ("Organization of the activities of an extremist organization").

The case of Dane Dennis Christensen, who has been living in Oryol for more than 10 years, will be heard by the same judge Svetlana Naumova, who previously considered detention to be the only possible preventive measure for law-abiding Dennis. The FSB investigator in charge of the case again asks the court for the most severe measure of restraint.

There are oddities in this case. Of particular bewilderment were the circumstances of the appeal hearing on the decision on detention, which was to be held on June 7, 2017 in the Oryol Regional Court under the chairmanship of Judge Igor Paukov. The hearing was unexpectedly postponed until June 21 due to the lack of a Danish translator, but an article suddenly appeared in the official newspaper stating that "the Oryol Regional Court upheld the decision of the district court to arrest a Danish citizen." Such a "false start" leads to suspicion that the decision was made and communicated to the journalists of the official newspaper even before the court hearing with the participation of an interpreter, which took place more than 10 days later, on June 21, 2017.

Another oddity is that investigators continue to convince the court that the Danish citizen was allegedly the head of the banned local religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses in the city of Orel. In fact, he was never not only a leader, but also a member of this organization, as is easy to see by referring to official information.

Lawyers continue to work actively, proving the complete innocence of the believer.

Case of Christensen in Oryol

Case history
Dennis Christensen is the first Jehovah’s Witness in modern Russia to be imprisoned only because of his faith. He was arrested in May 2017. The FSB accused the believer of organizing the activities of a banned organization on the basis of the testimony of a secret witness, theologian Oleg Kurdyumov from a local university, who kept covert audio and video recordings of conversations with Christensen about faith. There are no extremist statements or victims in the case. In 2019, the court sentenced Christensen to 6 years in prison. The believer was serving time in the Lgov colony. He repeatedly asked for the replacement of part of the unserved term with a fine. For the first time, the court granted the request, but the prosecutor’s office appealed this decision, and the prison administration threw the believer into a punishment cell on trumped-up charges. Christensen developed illnesses that prevented him from working in prison. On May 24, 2022, the believer was released after serving his sentence and was immediately deported to his homeland, Denmark.
Timeline

Persons in case

Criminal case

Region:
Oryol Region
Locality:
Oryol
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)
Court case number:
11707540001500164
Initiated:
May 23, 2017
Current case stage:
The verdict entered into force
Investigating:
UFSB of Russia in the Oryol region
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1)
Court case number:
1-37/1
[i18n] Рассмотрено судом первой инстанции:
Железнодорожный районный суд г. Орла
Judge:
Алексей Николаевич Руднев
[i18n] Суд апелляционной инстанции:
Орловский областной суд
[i18n] Суд апелляционной инстанции:
Льговский райсуд Курской области
Background