Responding to a Russian appeal court’s decision to uphold a six-year prison sentence imposed on Dennis Christensen, a prisoner of conscience and Jehovah’s Witness from Denmark, Amnesty International’s Russia Researcher, Natalia Prilutskaya, said:
“The Russian authorities’ decision to uphold the sentence is an affront to the rights to freedom of religion and association. The authorities missed an opportunity to overturn the grim injustice done to Dennis Christensen, who was thrown behind bars solely for exercising his right to freedom of religion and peacefully held belief. Dennis Christensen should be immediately and unconditionally released.”
The authorities missed an opportunity to overturn the grim injustice done to Dennis Christensen, who was thrown behind bars solely for exercising his right to freedom of religion and peacefully held beliefNatalia Prilutskaya, Amnesty International's Russia Researcher
“For dozens of Jehovah’s Witnesses prosecuted across Russia under abominable anti-extremism legislation, today’s decision sends a bleak message that reprisals will continue and much worse may still come.”
On 23 May, the Oryol Regional Court upheld a decision, made in February, by the Zheleznodorozhny District Court of Oryol to sentence Dennis Christensen to six years in a penal colony for “organizing the activities of an extremist organization.” Since his conviction, the homes of more than 115 Jehovah’s Witnesses have been raided, resulting in 74 criminal cases brought against Jehovah’s Witnesses across Russia. This brings the total number of Jehovah’s Witnesses under investigation in the country to 197.
In April 2017, the Russian Supreme Court ruled that the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization in Russia should be banned as extremist, its activities stopped, and its property confiscated, a decision that Amnesty International believes blatantly violates the rights to freedom of religion.