Russian court upholds conviction of Jehovah’s Witness Dennis Christensen
Condemning the Russian appeal court’s decision to uphold the six-year prison sentence of Dennis Christensen, a Jehovah’s Witness and a Prisoner of Conscience, Canadian MP David Anderson, Chair of the Steering Group of the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief (IPPFoRB) and a staunch advocate of Christensen, said:
“Once again, the Russian authorities have attacked freedom of religion or belief, a fundamental human right. Several laws in Russia impair the enjoyment of the right to freedom of religion or belief, and Jehovah’s Witnesses are some of the primary victims of it. I strongly urge the Russian authorities to set a positive example in the international community by immediately and unconditionally releasing Christensen.”
Anderson, as Chair of the IPPFoRB Steering Group, along with Canadian Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief (CANFoRB) colleagues Kelly Block, MP and John McKay, MP, sent a strongly-worded letter to the Russian Embassy in Canada advocating for the safe and immediate release of Christensen who was sentenced to six years in prison for ‘extremism’.
To date, the Russian Embassy in Canada hasn’t responded to the parliamentarians.
“The conviction of Christensen in Russia sends a harsh message to the world and to other Jehovah’s Witnesses both in Russia and globally – that the situation of freedom of religion or belief isn’t getting any better in the country,” added Anderson.
Anderson and CANFoRB remain committed to advocating on behalf of Dennis Christensen and demanding that his basic human rights be upheld.
Born in Oryol, Russia, as of February 2019, the Zheleznodorozhny District Court of Oryol sentenced Christensen to six years in prison under Criminal Code Article 282.2, Part 1 for “continuing the activities” of an extremist group. While he did appeal the decision, on 23rd May, the Oryol Regional Court upheld the decision made in February.
According to Amnesty International, since Christensen’s conviction, the homes of more than 115 Jehovah’s Witnesses have bene raided, resulting in 74 criminal cases, bringing the total number of Jehovah’s Witnesses under investigation to 197.
In April 2017, the Russian Supreme Court ruled Jehovah’s Witnesses to be an extremist organization and ordered to ban all its activities within the country. Christensen became one of many from the community who was charged with being an ‘extremist’ for exercising his right to practice his religion or belief freely.
Want to highlight this case in your own country?
If you are an IPPFoRB network parliamentarian and want to support the case of Dennis Christensen, please get in touch with Palak Rao, IPPFoRB Communications and Advocacy Adviser at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can support you in your advocacy efforts for Dennis Christensen and other Prisoners of Conscience.