Jehovah's Witness jailed for six years in Russia in crackdown

06 Février, 2019, 17:56 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • Jehovah's Witness Russia Dennis Christensen

A Danish national who lives in Russian Federation as a Jehovah's Witness has been jailed for six years after a court found him guilty of organising the activities of a banned extremist organisation.

Russia's Supreme Court later ruled the group was an "extremist" organisation and ordered it to disband nationwide, and Christiansen's detention, the first extremism-related arrest of a Jehovah's Witness in Russian Federation, foreshadowed dozens of similar cases.

The court in the city of Oryol on Wednesday found Christiansen guilty after a long trial, his lawyer, his wife and a representative for the Jehovah's Witnesses told Reuters.

Christiansen had pleaded innocent, saying he was exercising freedom of religion guaranteed in Russia's constitution.

The court in Oryol found Dennis Christensen, who was leading the local Bible reading, guilty of extremism, making him the first Jehovah's Witness in Russian Federation to have been sent to prison.

The religious group got a glimmer of hope in December when President Vladimir Putin publicly pledged to look into the reported persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses, calling extremism charges against the religion's adherents "nonsense".

Christensen was among the first Jehovah's Witnesses to be arrested in the current crackdown, back in May 2017, and has been detained since, making regular court appearances. Orthodox scholars have cast them as a unsafe foreign sect that erodes state institutions and traditional values, allegations they reject.

They believe the end of the world as we know it is imminent, an event "the obedient" will survive to inhabit the Kingdom of God they believe will follow.

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Christiansen moved to Murmansk in northern Russian Federation in 2000 where the Jehovah's Witnesses were already well established and met his wife Irina there.

Anton Bogdanov, Christiansen's lawyer, said he planned to appeal Wednesday's verdict, which he termed illegal and feared would set a risky precedent.

He said he feared the verdict would set a risky precedent.

Dennis Christensen, a Danish Jehovah's Witness accused of extremism, is escorted into a courtroom to hear his verdict in the town of Oryol on February 6, 2019.

"In essence we have returned to Soviet times", said Sivulsky, whose own father Pavel was jailed for seven years in 1959 for printing bible literature.

Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, said there were clearly reasons for Christiansen's arrest but he was unaware of details.

"Dennis Christensen has been arrested and prosecuted by the authorities simply for practicing his religion as Jehovah's Witness", said Marie Struthers, Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International, in a statement before the sentencing.


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