Jehovah's Witness From Denmark Sentenced in Russia Knowingly Defied Law

Elias Hubbard
February 8, 2019

Russia's Supreme Court later ruled the group was "extremist" and ordered it to disband nationwide.

Both statements came a day after a court in the western city of Oryol found Dennis Christensen, a Danish citizen and a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses, guilty of "organizing the activity of an extremist organization" in Russian Federation and handed him a six-year prison sentence. The Russian president noted that Jehovah's Witnesses are also Christians and he did not understand why they were persecuted. The policies have caused some of the religious group's adherents to flee the country and seek refuge in neighboring nations.

The statement gives neither the number of people detained nor the exact date of the arrests.

According to the statement, the suspects held illegal gatherings, "propagating extremist ideas and recruiting new members to the banned religious group".

In a statement released on February 7, officials in the Khanty-Mansiisk region in northwestern Siberia said that they had arrested another group of Jehovah's Witnesses for preaching their superiority over other religious organizations. Before the ban, the world headquarters of the Jehovah's Witnesses claimed about 170,000 adherents in Russian Federation.

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".

"Deeply concerned by the six-year sentence imposed on Jehovah's Witness Dennis Christensen", she tweeted.

"Everyone acquainted with Dennis Christensen knows that he has committed no crime. Jehovah's Witnesses will continue to appeal for justice while supporting their fellow worshippers", Paul Gillies, worldwide Spokesman for Jehovah's Witnesses, told Newsweek.

Jehovah's Witnesses is an global religious organization that supports offbeat views on the essence of the Christian faith and provides special interpretations of many commonly accepted notions.

"The harsh sentence imposed on Christensen creates a risky precedent, and effectively criminalizes the right to freedom of religion or belief for Jehovah's Witnesses in Russian Federation - in contravention of the State's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights", Michelle Bachelet, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement. "Dropping the case against Christensen would be a good first step toward ending the raids and other criminal cases against people who are merely practicing their faith".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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