Dennis Christensen at Copenhagen airport after being released from prison

Served Sentences

Dennis Christensen Released From Russian Prison and Deported to Denmark

Oryol 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.

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