Dennis Christensen gives an explanation. January 2019

Criminal trial

During the trial of the Danish believer in Orel, the defendant himself made an explanation

Oryol Region

On January 15 and 16, 2019, Dennis Christensen, who is accused of "organizing the activities of an extremist organization" (Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation), presented his explanations to the court. He confirmed that he professed the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses, analyzed the motives attributed to him by the investigation, revealed inconsistencies in the charges, openly exposed the secret witness for the prosecution and declared his complete innocence.

About his faith and intent. It's true, I'm an elder," he confessed in court, "For Jehovah's Witnesses, this is not a position, but a way of life as a servant of God." As evidence, Christensen cited excerpts from the Bible to the court, which speak of high moral standards for elders. However, he strongly rejected the accusation of "convening meetings" and that he was the "organizer" of worship. Christensen spoke in detail that Christian meetings are a manifestation of Christian love on the part of everyone, that they were held in Orel before his arrival, and will be held if he is not there.

Analyzing the extremist motive attributed to him, Dennis Christensen explained why he likes to be in the religion of the Witnesses: "We call each other brothers and sisters ... After such meetings, the person feels encouraged. We discuss how to provide practical help to those who are sick. Perhaps they need help buying groceries or cooking. Seniors often need help if something is broken or a light bulb needs to be changed. We discuss how to help people have an intimate relationship with God, how to explain biblical truths to them. We talk about how you can improve your relationships with neighbors, employees, classmates. Sometimes it's about what we could do to make our city even cleaner." He concluded: "As can be seen from the above, when I became Jehovah's Witness and later, when I came to Russia, I had no intention of committing a crime."

Was it forbidden to believe in Jehovah? Already in the pre-trial detention center, Christensen had the opportunity to familiarize himself with the court decision recognizing the local religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses Oryol as extremist. He read out an excerpt from the ruling of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation of October 18, 2016: "The rights of participants of the LRO of Jehovah's Witnesses "Eagle" to freedom of religion will not be violated, since they are not deprived of the opportunity to carry out and perform religious cults that are not related to the distribution of religious literature of extremist content." Christensen then stated: "If the Supreme Court considers it legal for believers, including former members of the LRO, to conduct and practice their religious cults, then why am I accused of being illegal in my case? If the Supreme Court gives such an explanation, why am I accused of having to understand it differently?"

Christensen explained that the Oryol LRO ceased to exist on October 18, 2016 on the basis of a court decision. But this did not mean that believers in the city of Orel were obliged to stop believing in God. "Since Article 28 of the Constitution has not been repealed to date, I believe that I and my fellow believers had the right to hold worship services that were in no way related to the activities of the liquidated legal entity."

About secret recordings of telephone conversations. "The FSB had been secretly listening to me for 9 months," Christensen said, "and I didn't know it. And during this entire period, I have never denigrated anyone, I have never encouraged anyone to genocide, to persecute other people, to destroy my family, to violence, or to anything else that I am accused of. The fact that in my telephone conversations various issues are discussed that are related to my life as a believer is not proof that I have committed any crimes." "None of my telephone conversations even use the phrase 'local religious organization,'" Christensen continued, "but the prosecution arbitrarily claims that it is a local religious organization, Oryol, of Jehovah's Witnesses. And I never had any legal or factual relation to her. Accordingly, I never had any intention or desire to resume the activities of this organization.

Exposing a secret witness. Separately, Dennis Christensen dwelled on the testimony of a secret witness under the pseudonym "Yermolov". "The court could make sure that the real name of this citizen is Oleg Kurdyumov, he is a teacher at Oryol State University," said Dennis Christensen.- Under the guise of a person interested in the Bible, Kurdyumov began, on the instructions of the FSB, to film services with a hidden camera, and then, also on the instructions of the FSB, secretly recorded our conversation with him on a dictaphone. Since the audio and video recordings obtained by him do not contain any information about the commission of a crime by me, Kurdyumov decided to supplement them with his fantasies, testifying under a pseudonym. I assess this act as unworthy of a university teacher. [...] As the witness Kurdyumov explained, he read many of the information he reported in court on the Internet. This means that his testimony cannot be used as evidence in the case, since it is just a rumor.

"Dear court, I want to emphasize that, unlike the prosecution, I have never considered the peaceful worship of believers as a continuation of the activities of the liquidated LRO," Dennis Christensen concluded.

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