Dennis Christensen. Photo source: Simon Kruse / Berlingske

Human Rights

International Memorial defends Dennis Christensen

Oryol Region

On February 8, 2019, the board of the International Historical, Educational, Charitable and Human Rights Society Memorial issued a statement demanding the immediate release of Dennis Christensen and the rest of the arrested Jehovah's Witnesses.

Recalling the decision of the Supreme Court to ban Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia as an extremist organization, human rights activists stressed: "This shameful and anti-legal decision has put Russia among the countries with the most odious regimes. Jehovah's Witnesses were brutally persecuted in Hitler's Germany. In all democratic countries, Jehovah's Witnesses operate freely. [...] The six years that Christensen received for exercising his constitutional right to freedom of religion are quite comparable to the terms that Jehovah's Witnesses received under the Soviet regime.

Human rights activists again drew attention to the incompatibility of the persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses with common sense: "It is absurd when Jehovah's Witnesses convicted under the Soviet regime (Memorial knows many hundreds of such ruined destinies) are recognized as victims of political repression in accordance with the Federal Law on Rehabilitation (1991) - and at the same time sent to prison current followers of Jehovah's Witnesses."

Summarizing the above, International Memorial stated: "This verdict once again confirms the flawedness of Russia's 'anti-extremist' legislation, which makes it possible to enroll almost everyone as extremists. We demand the lifting of the unconstitutional ban on Jehovah's Witnesses."

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