The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) condemns the recent decision by the Lgov District Court to again deny the parole of Dennis Christensen, a Jehovah’s Witness prisoner of conscience imprisoned in Russia.
Oct 27, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
USCIRF Troubled by Russia’s Ongoing Imprisonment of Jehovah’s Witness Dennis Christensen
Washington, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) condemns the recent decision by the Lgov District Court to again deny the parole of Dennis Christensen, a Jehovah’s Witness prisoner of conscience imprisoned in Russia.
“USCIRF is appalled by Russia’s treatment of Dennis Christensen,” said USCIRF Chair Gayle Manchin, who advocates for Dennis Christensen through the Commission’s Religious Prisoner of Conscience project. “There is clearly an official vendetta against this poor man, who is guilty only of peacefully practicing his faith. Instead of showing mercy, the state is treating him like a dangerous criminal. This is an egregious miscarriage of justice.”
Christensen was granted parole on June 23, but the decision was quickly challenged by a state prosecutor. Rather than being released, Christensen was instead placed in a poorly ventilated punishment cell for allegedly violating prison rules. He has been eligible for early release for a year, due to time served in pre-trial detention, and his health has noticeably deteriorated in custody. He has already contracted pneumonia once during his time in prison, and his pulmonary health remains a serious concern amid the continuing threat of COVID-19. Unless his parole is upheld, Christensen is scheduled to remain in prison until May 25, 2022.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses report that 10 of its members are currently imprisoned in Russia, while 40 are in pretrial detention, and 27 are under house arrest.
In its 2020 Annual Report, USCIRF recommended that the U.S. government designate Russia as a “country of particular concern” for its systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze, and report on threats to religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at firstname.lastname@example.org.