Photo: Dennis Christensen during one of the court hearings

Inside Penal Colonies and Detention Centers

Four days after his release from the special punishment cell, the prison administration sent Dennis Christensen back to the special punishment cell again

Oryol Region,   Kursk Region

After Christensen's release from the punishment cell (SHIZO), where he stayed for 15 days on unjustified charges, the administration of the colony brought him there again. The reason was the believer's refusal to work there, which is detrimental to his health. The pressure on him increased after the court decision to soften his sentence.

The second time Christensen was sent to the SHIZO on July 15, 2020. The colony management invited doctors who cooperate with the penal system. They examined Christensen and concluded that he could work with breaks for rest and gymnastics. Previously, an independent doctor had concluded that the nature of the work expected at the prison sewing factory was contraindicated to him.

SHIZO is a prison inside a prison with harsh conditions. Prisoners were not allowed to purchase food, receive visits, make phone calls or receive parcels or packages. Although by law prisoners in the SHIZO have the right to invite a clergyman, Dennis Christensen does not have this option because Jehovah's Witnesses are not officially registered in Russia.

The first time Dennis Christensen was brought to the SHIZO for 10 days, which was extended for another 5 days. If he is punished one more time, the colony may recognize him as a "malicious violator" and send him to a chamber-type facility ( EPKT ) for up to six months. In this case, the total term of Christensen's imprisonment may be extended.

The defense is trying to appeal against the penal colony's decisions on penalties. However, the Lgov District Court did not accept the claim for unlawfulness of the 1st punishment, because of which Christensen found himself in the penal colony for 15 days. Judge Tatiana Ignatieva referred to several formal, unfounded reasons and did not accept the suit. For example, she claimed that documents should be translated into Danish, although this is not required, as Christensen himself is the applicant in this case. Furthermore, she stated that the lawsuit should be accompanied by the prison administration's own decisions, which is not possible in principle, as one of them is an oral reprimand, and the second colony does not hand over to the prisoner and can only send him or her within a month in response to a lawyer's request. In the meantime, the judge had given the defense until 24 July to obtain documents and translate them into Danish.

In June 2020, Lgov District Court, considering Dennis Christensen's request for a reduction of his sentence, with the consent of the prosecutor's office, replaced his unexpired portion of his prison term with a large fine. Literally two days later the prosecutor's office changed its position and appealed the leniency to a higher court. For their part, the employees of the colony - on the same day - drew up two reports on Christensen's violation of prison rules at once, and the next day they sent him to SHIZO.

Despite all the difficulties, Dennis Christensen is still in a positive mood.

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