Kremlin gives evasive response to sentencing of Christensen


Interfax-Religiia, 6 February 2019


Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs Anders Samuelsen on Wednesday expressed serious concern in connection with the issuing in Orel of a sentence of a Dane who is an adherent of the religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses (which is prohibited in the RF).


"I am profoundly disturbed by the sentence given to Dennis Christensen," A. Samuelsen wrote in his Twitter account.


He urged Russia to respect freedom of religious confession and also he reported that the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs will continue to follow the development of the situation.


Earlier on Wednesday, the Kremlin refrained from comment in connection with the sentence of the Dane in an Orel court.


According to news media reports, the Dane was sentenced to six years in a penal colony on an accusation of extremism.


The press secretary of the president of the RF, Dmitry Peskov, told journalists that he does not know details of this trial and he promised to clarify them. He doubted that the court's sentence was issued only on the basis of the religious convictions of the Dane.


By a decision of the Russian Supreme Court of 20 April 2017, the "Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia" and 395 local religious organizations that were members of its structure were liquidated and their activity was banned in accordance with the law "On combating extremist activity."


Meanwhile, in December 2018 at a meeting with rights advocates, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that representatives of religious communities should not be equated with members of terrorist and destructive organizations. (tr. by PDS, posted 6 February 2019)



RIA Novosti, 6 February 2019


The press secretary of the president of the Russian Federation, Dmitry Peskov, promised to learn about the situation of a resident of Denmark and adherent of the religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses, who may be sentenced in Russia to six years for extremism.


"Unfortunately, I do not know details and therefore I cannot respond to this question. I will clarify it," he told journalists, responding to a question about the accusations of extremism against a foreigner.


At the same time, Peskov suggested that the investigation must have serious arguments and reasons for such an accusation.


"This cannot be done simply for professing a religion. In all likelihood, there were some arguments. And, in all likelihood, there were reasons for the accusation. But since I do not know them, I cannot say anything to you," he emphasized.


In addition, the Kremlin representative promised to clarify how this incident may relate to a statement by Russian President Vladimir Putin about prosecutions of representatives of a religious organization.


"I have to clarify how I am to answer you specifically," he declared.


As reported in late January, the prosecutor's office demanded a sentence of 6.5 years incarceration of the Dane Dennis Christensen who was living in the Russian city of Orel and who continued to lead a local congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses after its prohibition. The Orel division of Jehovah's Witnesses was ruled to be extremist and was banned in 2016. According to a representative of the prosecutor's office, Christensen was arrested in 2017 and charged with arranging the activity of a religious association (part 1 of article 282.2 of the CC). The investigation alleges that after the decision of the court for liquidation of the Orel division of Jehovah's Witnesses, Christensen continued to arrange meetings of its members, he conducted religious activities and collective worship services, and he also distributed extremist literature, Tsukanova said.


At a session of the Council for the Development of Civil Society, which was held on 11 December, Putin promised to conduct an analysis of law enforcement practice on the matter of missionary activity in Russia together with the Russian Supreme Court. During the meeting with rights advocates, Putin stated that he did not understand very well why adherents of the Jehovah's Witnesses, who are considered Christians, are prosecuted. . . . (tr. by PDS, posted 6 February 2019)

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