Dennis and Irina Christensen. The photo was taken before the arrest

Unjust Verdicts

The Court Ordered to Free Dennis Christensen, one of Jehovah's Witness From Denmark. For His Faith, He Stayed in Prison for 1128 Days

Oryol Region,   Kursk Region

On June 23, 2020, at 19:50 Lgov district court, considering Dennis Christensen's petition for mitigation of his sentence, replaced his unexpired part of the prison term with a fine of 400,000 rubles. A Jehovah's Witness convicted of faith will be released after the court ruling enters into force.

The hearing was attended by Danish diplomats. No one else, including Dennis' wife Irina, was allowed into the building. Christensen himself attended the hearing via video.

Dennis Christensen was arrested on 25 May 2017 and sentenced to six years in prison in February 2019. The court considered it extremist that the believer continued to gather with his fellow believers for religious meetings and welcomed them before the religious service. However, there were no victims of Christensen's "crimes". To date, the believer has actually been behind bars for about 3 years and 1 month. However, taking into account the fact that according to the law, one day in the pre-trial detention facility equals 1.5 days in the general regime colony, Christensen has served more than 4 years of the term appointed by the court.

"From the moment of his arrest Christensen has behaved and behaved respectfully and correctly towards the employees of the investigation and court, the pre-trial detention facility and the employees of correctional colony № 3. He independently organized free English language training for prisoners, maintains friendly relations with other convicts," said Christensen's lawyer, explaining to Galina Petlitsa the grounds for the mitigation of punishment to the believer.

Correctional colony No. 3 in Lgov
Correctional colony No. 3 in Lgov

The lawyer described the mistakes made by the courts, which put Christensen in prison. As stated in an appeal ruling of the Supreme Court on October 18, 2016, which confirmed the liquidation of the local religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses "Oryol," believers in Russia "are not deprived of the opportunity to perform their own religious worship. Contrary to this, the courts interpreted Christensen's private religion as the continuation of a banned legal entity.

"Judge Galina Petlitsa made a fair decision. This is a brave and honest act, which is not often decided recently by the judges hearing the cases of Jehovah's Witnesses," said the representative of the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses, Yaroslav Sivulski.

Replacing the punishment of a believer means for Christensen the opportunity to go free without any additional restrictions, except for the obligation to pay the fine, said Christensen's advocate.

Currently, there are 10 convicts in Russian colonies for the beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses, while another 24 people are imprisoned. A total of 353 people who hold the views of Jehovah's Witnesses are accused of extremism for their Christian faith. The religious persecution continues despite assurances from the Russian government and Vladimir Putin that there is no reason to persecute 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