Share

Russian court sends Jehovah's Witness to prison for 6 years

Share

MOSCOW (AP) — A regional court in western Russia on Wednesday sentenced a Danish Jehovah’s Witness to six years in prison, in arguably the most severe crackdown on religious freedom in Russia in recent years.

The court in Oryol found Dennis Christensen guilty of extremism, making him the first Jehovah’s Witness in Russia to be sent to prison.

Christensen was detained during a police raid on a local prayer meeting he was leading in May 2017.

“I do not agree with this judgment, it’s a big mistake,” Christensen told reporters after the sentencing in the city of Oryol. His wife Irina Christensen added: “I’m really sad that such a thing is happening in Russia, very sad. The same thing could happen to any of us.”

The verdict was met with consternation around the world including from the U.S. Embassy, which expressed its concern and urged Russia to respect individual’s religious freedom.

Trending:
Trump's Surgeon General Says He Tried to Refinance His Mortgage, But Biden Admin Pulled a Dirty Move to Stop It from Happening

Russia in recent years has used its vaguely worded extremism laws to go after dissenters, opposition activists and most recently religious minorities. Russia officially banned the Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2017 and declared the religious group an extremist organization.

Nearly 100 members of the group face charges in Russia, and more than 20 of them are in jail awaiting trial. Before the ban, the world headquarters of the Jehovah’s Witnesses claimed about 170,000 adherents in Russia.

Paul Gillies, spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses, said in an emailed statement that Christensen did not commit any crime and that he was convicted “merely for practicing his Christian faith.”

“This verdict reveals just how fragile religious freedom has become in Russia,” Gillies said.

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.”

But Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov, when asked about the case after the verdict, was unable to say if Putin had looked into the matter and had no comment on the ruling Wednesday.

U.S. Embassy spokesperson Andrea Kalan expressed concern.

“Deeply concerned by the six-year sentence imposed on Jehovah’s Witness Dennis Christensen,” she tweeted. “We agree with President Putin that persecuting peaceful believers is utter nonsense, and call on Russia to respect freedom of religion.”

Amnesty International has said that it considers Christensen and other Jehovah’s Witnesses on trial as prisoners of conscience.

Related:
Biden's Department of Homeland Security Reveals the Fate of Around 12,400 Migrants Who Illegally Crossed the Border

Christensen’s lawyer Anton Bogdanov said that he will likely file an appeal within 10 days after discussing the matter with his client.

“The man was sentenced to six years behind bars, because he, along with others of the same religious beliefs, read the Bible and spread their religious views,” Bogdanov said.

The Western Journal has not reviewed this Associated Press story prior to publication. Therefore, it may contain editorial bias or may in some other way not meet our normal editorial standards. It is provided to our readers as a service from The Western Journal.

Truth and Accuracy

Submit a Correction →



loading

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

Tags:
Share
The Associated Press is an independent, not-for-profit news cooperative headquartered in New York City. Their teams in over 100 countries tell the world’s stories, from breaking news to investigative reporting. They provide content and services to help engage audiences worldwide, working with companies of all types, from broadcasters to brands.
The Associated Press was the first private sector organization in the U.S. to operate on a national scale. Over the past 170 years, they have been first to inform the world of many of history's most important moments, from the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the bombing of Pearl Harbor to the fall of the Shah of Iran and the death of Pope John Paul.

Today, they operate in 263 locations in more than 100 countries relaying breaking news, covering war and conflict and producing enterprise reports that tell the world's stories.
Location
New York City




loading

Conversation