Trial of Danish Jehovah's Witness recessed for one week


Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, 16 May 2019


On 23 May 2019, at 10:00 a.m. in Orel oblast court, the appellate hearing in the case of the Jehovah's Witness from Denmark will approach its end. After this, the court will retire for establishing the sentence.


On 16 May 2019, prosecutors and Dennis Christensen's defense lawyers spoke in the debates. The hearing was attended by foreign diplomats, journalists, and also many representatives of the public. The sessions are being held in the building of the district court at the address: Orel, Krasnoarmeiskaia St., bldg. 6. (tr. by PDS, posted 16 May 2019)


by Maksim Kliagin

Orlovskie Novosti, 16 May 2019


On 16 May, in the Orel oblast court, the consideration of the appeal of the Danish follower of the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses Dennis Christensen was resumed; he had been sentenced to six years in a penal colony for reviving the activity of a forbidden organization. The hearings on the appeal have already lasted several days. Today the parties moved to the debates. The floor given first to the prosecutorial party.


"I think that the bases for reversing the sentence do not exist. Christensen's guilt has been fully proven," prosecutor Bushyeva noted.


According to the state prosecutor, witnesses confirmed Christensen's involvement in the "Jehovah's Witnesses—Orel" local religious organization, which is considered to be extremist and banned in Russia, and also his revival of the activity of the organization after its liquidation. In addition, the Dane's guilt is confirmed by the materials of the case and the conclusions of an expert analysis.


"The arguments that Christensen did not commit illegal actions and that extremist literature was not found in his home are without basis," Bushueva enunciated her position.


In the opinion of the prosecutor, the court of the first instance issued a legitimate decision, inasmuch as Christensen, knowing that the organization was forbidden, continued extremist activity. In particular, at worship services of the Jehovah's Witnesses were heard statements that viewed negatively persons who are not adherents of their religion and representatives of government bodies, and that stated the superiority of Jehovah's Witnesses over other people.


"In ordering the penalty, the court took into account the seriousness of the crime and its public danger. The court reasonably made a realistic conclusion," Bushueva said. However, important circumstances of the case were not taken into consideration. In particular, as the prosecutor noted, the court did not justify the exclusion from the verdict the fact of the coordination of Christensen's actions with the world organization of Jehovah's Witnesses, which operates on the territory of the Russian Federation and was liquidated for extremism. In the course of the investigation it was established that the Dane communicated with representatives of the forbidden organization. Correspondence was found on a personal computer. In addition, Christensen received a salary from this organization.


"It is necessary to supplement the introductory portion of the decision with Christensen's possession of a residence permit good until March 2022. The rationale part should be supplemented with the coordination of actions with the world organization, which had been liquidated for extremist activity. In addition, it is necessary to note that Christensen is a foreign citizen. As for the rest, I ask for leaving the decision without change and the defense's appeal without satisfaction," Bushueva summed up.


After a recess, the floor in the debate was given to the defense party.


"A person may be deprived of physical liberty, but not the liberty of convictions," the attorney Anton Bogdanov said, taking the floor. "Despite whatever way this trial may end, Christensen is the winner. He has not renounced his own ideas, even while being imprisoned for the course of two years. And he will continue to express them in the future, including in today's debates."


The believer's defense attorney wished for the panel to be just as free in their thinking as Christensen while rendering their decision.


Then a second attorney took the floor.


"The whole essence of the case comes down to the following: a local religious organization was liquidated and believers continued to meet together. Believers are forbidden to meet and the local religious organization is liquidated," Irina Krasnikova said.


In her opinion, faith always remains faith. According to the constitution, there is freedom of religious confession in Russia. The Supreme Court banned a legal entity, but it cannot revoke the constitution.


"Believers cannot cease to believe after the liquidation of the local religious organization. Including meeting together and tending to the meeting place. I ask each member of the panel to put himself in Christensen's place. He did not commit a crime, he is separated from his family; imagine what he feels. In making your decision, be merciful," Krasnikova concluded.


Finally, Christensen himself spoke, through an interpreter.


"'The more often a lie is repeated, the more it is believed.' This sentence was spoken many years ago by one horrible person. I thought that in the 21st century such a thing is now impossible. However these methods are again being used against me and other Jehovah's Witnesses. In my case, the lie is the continuation of the activity of a local religious organization," Christensen said.


He said that he, like other believers, attended worship services. There is no crime in that, the Dane thinks.


"I am often asked why they try to take Jehovah's Witnesses for extremists. My answer is: I do not know. I also did not hear an answer to this question in the court. I am not an extremist. I am a respectable citizen," the Dane noted.


As an example of the peaceful activity of followers of his religion, Christensen cited the refusal to use weapons. He said that during World War II, German Jehovah's Witnesses, risking their lives, refused to serve in the Wehrmacht army. They did not fight on the eastern front and they did not kill soviet citizens. Now Jehovah's Witnesses operate freely in 200 countries of the world. And only in Russia are they extremists.


"Christ once said to his disciples: 'They persecute me and they will persecute you.' In the end he himself was condemned and killed on a false charge of extremism," Christensen said.


The Dane also noted that while he was sitting in the SIZO, his grandmother died. He did not make it to the funeral. Christensen said that his grandmother was the first in the family who was interested in the Bible. She was a Jehovah's Witness. Christensen believes that God will resurrect her and they will meet again in the future. Christensen quoted the Bible a lot and at the end of his speech in the debates he declared that God is always with him and will never forsake him.


"I ask that you restore truth and return my life to me," the Dane appealed to the judges.


He also added that if the court does not release him, he still will continue to fight for his freedom. A negative decision will have to be appealed.


With this the judicial session concluded. The next time, Christensen will deliver his final word, after which the court will render a decision. (tr. by PDS, posted 16 May 2019)


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