Photo: Dennis Christensen in a prison cell for visits during a meeting with a lawyer. Lgov. September 8, 2020

Inside Penal Colonies and Detention Centers

The Court Left Dennis Christensen Behind Bars. He Can File a New Petition for Mitigation of Punishment Only After 6 Months

Oryol Region,   Kursk Region

On October 26, 2020 Lgov district court of Kursk region refused to replace an unpaid part of Dennis Christensen's prison term with a fine. The court referred to Christensen's opposition to work in prison, although such work contradicts his health condition.

Exactly 4 months ago the same court, but with a different membership, decided to release Christensen. This decision was made in response to a petition filed by the believer after he had served more than half of the sentence imposed by the court and had been granted the right to request mitigation of his sentence.

However, the Kursk Regional Court soon overturned that decision at the prosecutor's request and returned the case to a new hearing. As a result, not only did Dennis Christensen not receive legal freedom, but he also faced additional pressure from the Lgov colony administration. In September 2020, the prison commission unreasonably declared Christensen a " malicious violator" of the regime. He was regularly forced to perform work that was medically contraindicated and three times unjustifiably placed in a punishment cell (SHIZO). This served as a basis for submitting negative characteristics to the court and influenced the issue of release. In total, the believer spent 37 days in SHIZO.

The Dane citizen was put behind bars in May 2017 only because of his faith in God. In February 2019, the Zheleznodorozhny District Court of Oryol sentenced Christensen to 6 years of general regime colony. To date, Christensen, who has not committed any real crime, served about 4.5 years from the date of the court.

Support for the first Russian prisoner of conscience among Jehovah's Witnesses was expressed by PACE observers, the UN Commissioner for Human Rights, the Kingdom of Denmark, the Human Rights Council under the President of the Russian Federation and other well-known organizations.

"Accusing and imprisoning Christensen only for confessing his faith is an unacceptable violation of the right to freedom of religion," said observers of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

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