Trial of Danish Jehovah's Witness drags on and on


Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, 5 September 2018


In July and August 2018, in the Zheleznodorozhny district court of the city of Orel, a total of 14 court sessions in the case of Danish citizen Dennis Christensen were held; he faces up to 10 years incarceration (on the basis of part 1 or article 282.2 of the CC of RF) merely on the basis of the fact that he professes the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses. The case is being heard by Judge Aleksei Rudnev.


The summary of hearings of 2, 3, and 4 July was published previously. [See "Update on the Christensen trial," July 13, 2018]


On 9 July, the defense side repeated its petition for questioning witnesses who had left the Russian Federation for their permanent place of residence. At the same time, the court was presented information about the cities of residence of these people. The presiding judge announced that the petition will be considered after a verification of the possibility of fulfilling such a request. Then the court proceeded to hearing in closed session telephone conversations of Christensen that the FSB has controlled for a long time. The whole audience was asked to leave the courtroom.


On 7 and 8 August, the session was devoted to a survey of materials of the case. The defense side called attention to numerous violations and incorrect interpretations made by the investigation during collection of the materials.


On 10, 11, 30, and 31 July and 1 August, the sessions were conducted behind closed doors. Telephone conversations between Dennis Christensen and other Jehovah's Witnesses in the city of Orel were examined. At the same time, on 30 July, the judge again extended the term of Dennis Christensen's detention in custody (until 1 November 2018, inclusively).


On 13 and 14 August, written materials of the case were examined, specifically, results of searches. The court gave attention to the fact that various translations of the Bible, including the Synodal translation of the 19th century and the "Modern Translation," have been confiscated from believers. Dennis Christensen explained that the fact of discovery of various Bibles of believers should not be surprising, since Jehovah's Witnesses, as students of the Bible, use different translations of it.


Decisions of courts concerning the ruling of literature to be extremist were examined, since the investigator attached decisions of courts regarding those publications that were discovered in the course of searches to the materials of the case. Lawyers called the court's attention to the fact that for all of these publication either the date of the judicial decision or the date of inclusion in the Federal List of Extremist Materials referred to time after the period of Christensen's accusation. In addition, both the court and the prosecution asked about the basis on which such stupid arguments persuaded the courts to find one publication or another to be extremist. The fact that the Bible in the "New World Translation" has been ruled to be extremist material on the basis of an expert analysis conducted by a mathematics teacher caused a commotion.


On 15 August, from 15:30 to 19:35, the Orel oblast court consisting of Judge Igor Paukov reviewed an appeal of the extension of Dennis Christensen's detention. Judge Paukov had earlier, in June 2017, already considered the first appeal of the original detention of Christensen in custody, as the result of which it was not considered possible to apply a more lenient measure of restriction.


The court turned down a petition for the use of material evidence—audio recordings of conversations of Christensen with his father and of a conversation in a café with Oleg Kurdyumov (who was later questioned as a secret witness). The court did not want to trouble itself with an explanation of the reasons for making the decision. At the same time, it was this evidence that confirmed the absence on Christensen's part of a desire to leave the country in order to flee from the trial—a key circumstance in the resolution of the question of the necessity of selecting or extending the term of detention in custody. Thus, in the conversation with his father, the latter expressed concern over the possible imprisonment of his son, to which Dennis Christensen replied: "I want to try something new," after which the father said: "If they put you in prison, you will be able to preach there." Also in these conversations, Christensen often declared his desire to remain in Russia, speaking about departing only in the event of compulsory deportation by the authorities of the country.


In the café, Kurdyumov three times during the conversation, which lasted more than an hour, tried to draw Christensen to the topic of departure from Russia because of the persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses, to which each time Christensen stated that he did not want to do that. However Judge Paukov was not interested in all of this information.


After withdrawing into a conference room for 10 minutes, Judge Paukov, as expected, left Dennis Christensen in custody, rejecting the appeal.


As of that point in time, the conduct of the trial was in its 447th day of Dennis Christensen's imprisonment.


The next judicial sessions in this case are scheduled in the Zheleznodorozhny district court of Orel (45 Maxim Gorky St.) for 4, 5, 25, and 26 September 2018. The starting time is 10:30 a.m. (tr. by PDS, posted 6 September 2018)

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