Photo: Dennis Christensen

Inside Penal Colonies and Detention Centers

The Court Will Decide on Dennis Christensen's Parole on June 23. Pressure on the Believer Continues in the Colony

Oryol Region

On June 23, 2020, Judge of the Lgov district court of Kursk region Galina Petlitsa will consider the issue of early release of the Danish citizen Dennis Christensen, one of Jehovah's Witness, convicted for his faith for 6 years in prison. There are no legal grounds for refusal to release a believer, says Christensen's defense.

"There is no objective reason to prevent the judge from deciding in Christensen's favor. Dennis meets all the requirements to be released on parole: he served more than half of his sentence, he has exemplary behavior in the colony. Although the administration imposed penalties on him, the prosecutor found them unjustified and illegal. So we are optimistic," said Yaroslav Sivulskiy, a spokesman for the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses.

Dennis Christensen during one of the court hearings
Dennis Christensen during one of the court hearings

According to Dennis Christensen's lawyer, his mood is positive, despite some health problems and attempts of the administration to exert pressure. "Dennis has serious illnesses, due to which the doctor banned him from physical labor, but the colony staff regularly try to force him to perform those types of work that would cause him physical suffering," said the defender of the believer.

Dennis Christensen was eligible for parole or replacement of the unserved part of the sentence about a year ago. According to the rules for accounting for the term of imprisonment, 1 day of detention in a pre-trial detention center is equal to 1.5 days in a general regime colony. Thus, by June 23, Christensen will have served almost 4 years and 1 month out of 6 years of court-appointed imprisonment. On three occasions the Lgov court refused to consider the believer's petition for mitigation of punishment on formal grounds. However, the last petition - the fourth - was accepted for consideration by the court and scheduled a hearing for 10 am on June 23, 2020. It is planned that the meeting will be open. The Consul of the Kingdom of Denmark expressed his wish to be present.

Judge Petlitsa will consider the issue of Christensen's early release in the light of the decision of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the UN Human Rights Council regarding 18 Russian believers who are under criminal prosecution on the basis of the same charges on which Dennis Christensen was convicted. On 6 May 2020, the Group found the prosecution of Jehovah's Witnesses illegal and called for their immediate release in connection with the pandemic.

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