Key Fact: Danish citizen and Jehovah's Witness
Charges: "continuing the activities" of an extremist group (Jehovah’s Witnesses)
Biography: Dennis Ole Christensen is a Danish citizen who lives in Oryol, Russia. Before his detention, he worked as a carpenter while living with his wife, Irina Christensen, who is a Russian citizen.
As of May 2019, Russian authorities have brought 74 criminal cases against Jehovah's Witnesses across Russia, and are investigating a total of 197 Jehovah's Witnesses.
The current Russian state campaign against the Jehovah's Witnesses began with a crackdown on the faith community's literature and legal entities. Since 2007, Russian courts have banned at least eight local Jehovah's Witnesses organizations. The authorities have also placed over 95 pieces of Jehovah's Witnesses literature on the state list of banned extremist materials.
In June 2006, the Oryol Regional Court determined the local Jehovah's Witnesses group to be "extremist." On May 25, 2017, members of the Federal Security Service (FSB) disrupted a Jehovah's Witnesses prayer service in Oryol. Detaining some 70-80 people wihtin the building for several hours, the authorities held about 20 persons overnight before arresting Dennis Christensen and 15 Russian citizens.
On January 30, 2019, the prosecution demanded Mr. Christensen be sentenced to six and half years under Criminal Code Article 282.2, Part 1 for "continuing the activities" of an extremist group. On February 6, 2019, after appearing over 50 times in court and being detained for over 600 days, Mr. Christensen was sentenced to six years imprisonment. On May 23, the Oryol Regional Court denied Christensen's appeal and upheld the February decision to sentence him to six years in a penal colony.
Christensen was granted parole on June 23, but prosecutor Aleksei Shatunov subsequently appealed the decision. Christensen will remain in prison while a new hearing is scheduled, which could take weeks.
USCIRF Advocate: Gayle Manchin
Press Statement: USCIRF Troubled by Russia’s Ongoing Imprisonment of Jehovah’s Witness Dennis Christensen (July 2, 2020)
Press Statement: USCIRF Applauds Russian Court’s Parole of Jehovah’s Witness Dennis Christensen (June 23, 2020)
Press Statement: USCIRF Condems Russian Court's Decision to Uphold Conviction of Religious Prisoner of Conscience Dennis Christensen (May 23, 2019)
Press Statement: USCIRF Condemns Russian Conviction of Danish Prisoner of Conscience Dennis Christensen (February 7, 2019)
Press Release: Vice Chair Arriaga Adopts Two Religious Prisoners of Conscience (September 26, 2018)
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