Dennis Christensen at Copenhagen airport after being released from prison
Dennis Christensen Released From Russian Prison and Deported to DenmarkOryol Region, Kursk Region
On May 25, 2022, Dennis Christensen and his wife arrived safely in their native Denmark. This happened the day after his release from a Russian colony, where he spent 5 years for his faith.
“I’m very happy to be released from prison and reunited with my dear wife, Irina,” said Dennis. “I want to thank the Danish government, especially the consular office in Moscow, for trying to help me. I am also grateful to my brothers and sisters in the faith who supported me and my wife spiritually, emotionally, and physically.”
Around 130 people gathered in the morning of 24 May near the penal colony # 3 in the city of Lgov (550 kilometers from Moscow) to welcome Dennis. But the meeting did not happen because the migration service officials immediately took him and brought to Moscow airport to leave country.
Dennis was arrested and detained on May 25, 2017, when armed and masked Russian authorities raided a congregation meeting in the city of Oryol (350 kilometers from Moscow) that he was attending. He was subsequently convicted of organizing the activity of a religious organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Just one month before that, all organizations of that religion in Russia were declared extremist and banned by Russia’s Supreme Court, but the local organization in Oryol was banned even earlier, which became the basis of criminal prosecution of Christensen.
Russian authorities have repeatedly confirmed that the 2017 ban is restricted to legal entities of Jehovah’s Witnesses, claiming that it does not interfere with the rights of individual Witnesses to practice their faith. However, Dennis’ detention was the start of an aggressive campaign of arresting and imprisoning many Jehovah’s Witnesses throughout Russia and Crimea.
The Royal Danish Embassy in Moscow repeatedly sent representatives to the court in Oryol. They petitioned that Christensen be held under house arrest, not colony, and provided the necessary guarantees. However, the court did not release Christensen from the colony until he had served his entire sentence, six years in the penal colony. (Christensen spent the first 2 years in a detention center, where incarceration is considered harsher than in a penal colony, and where one day's stay equals 1.5 days in a penal colony.) In 2018, the Kingdom of Denmark applied with the European Court of Human Rights to intervene as a 3rd party in the case of Christensen v. Russia. A judgment on this complaint has not yet been issued.
Christensen was serving his sentence in the penal colony in Lgov. The administration of this penal colony repeatedly imposed additional unreasonable sanctions on him, which left him in even harsher conditions inside the colony. Russian courts did not grant his petitions for mitigation of the remaining sentence. After his release from the colony, Russia annulled the grounds for his residence in Russia and expelled him.
As of today, 91 of Jehovah's Witnesses remain behind bars in Russia. "My heart is with my dear brothers and sisters in the faith who were victims of criminal prosecution for their faith," says Dennis Christensen. "These people have nothing to do with extremism, they are suffering unjustly because they have been victims of religious persecution. I continue to pray for my courageous brothers and sisters who are being persecuted and imprisoned for their faith."
Dennis Christensen is a Danish citizen born in Copenhagen. For the last 20 years, he has been married to a Russian citizen, Irina, therefore he lived in Russia and worked in the field of assembly construction.