Photo: Dennis Christensen in the courtroom

Criminal trial

May 15, 2018. Review of the hearing in the case of a Danish believer in Oryol

Oryol Region

On May 15, 2018, two witnesses invited by the state prosecution were questioned in court, namely, the interrogation of FSB officer Pavel Azarenkov, who conducted operational-search measures against Christensen, was continued, and a local resident, Elena Chernitsova, who, like Christensen, professes the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses, was questioned.

When asked by the lawyers, the FSB officer explained that the Oryol Regional Court and the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation did not ban the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses, that in Oryol, as before, it is allowed to practice the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses, it is allowed to read the Bible and pray together with others, and it is not forbidden to spread one's religious beliefs, including on the street. It is noteworthy that the district police officer Maxim Ranev discovered an equally clear understanding of these issues the day before, on May 14, during interrogation in court.

During the interrogation of witness Elena Chernitsova, the court was strongly interested in how her religion differed from Orthodoxy. Another issue of interest to the court and the prosecution is who organized the cleaning of the worship hall, who encouraged it to take part in it. The witness explained that she did the cleaning on her own initiative, driven by religious feelings, since Jehovah God is pure and holy. However, it was clearly difficult for the court and state prosecutors to understand such an answer.

When asked by the court about her place of work, witness Chernitsova explained that she worked as a castellan in kindergarten No. 11 in Oryol, but soon after Christensen's arrest she was forced to resign because FSB officers came to her job and explained to the head T. Kostina that Jehovah's Witnesses "do not have the right to work in kindergartens." When the lawyers tried to find out from the witness the names of those FSB officers, the court stated that it was removing all questions related to this incident.

The hearing is scheduled to continue on May 16, 2018.

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.

Persons in case

Criminal case

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