Key Fact: Danish citizen and Jehovah's Witness
Charges: "continuing the activities" of an extremist group (Jehovah’s Witnesses)
Sentence: 6 years imprisonment
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 February 2019, Christensen is one of 23 members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses faith community imprisoned on charges related to practicing their faith. There are an additional 27 members under house arrest, 41 forbidden from leaving their home towns, and 121 under active investigation on similar charges.
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 2016, the Oryol Regional Court determined the local Jehovah’s Witness group to be "extremist.” On May 25, 2017, members of the Federal Security Service (FSB) disrupted a Jehovah’s Witness prayer service in Oryol. Detaining some 70-80 people within 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. He is appealing the verdict.
USCIRF Advocate: Vice Chair Kristina Arriaga
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