International outcry over Christensen's treatment continues


Radio Liberty, 15 February 2019


The U.S.A. subjected the recent sentence of a Russian court to sharp criticism, which was issued against a member of the religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses, Danish citizen Dennis Christensen. This was stated in a declaration of the charge d affaires of the American mission at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (O.S.C.E.), Harry Kamian.


"The increasingly frequent practice of Russia of legal prosecution of members of religious groups allegedly for 'extremism' or 'terrorism' violates the international obligations of Moscow and does not coincide with the constitution of the Russian Federation itself," the statement says. Jehovah's Witnesses are known throughout the world for the fact that they "peacefully profess their religion." However, in 2017 the Russian Supreme Court declared them an "extremist organization." Since then, no fewer than 100 Jehovah's Witnesses have been subjected in Russia to criminal prosecution, exclusively for peaceful performance of religious rituals, and dozens of them have been arrested, the document notes.


Kamian said that the Christensen case forces one to question what kind of fate has been prepared for other Jehovah's Witnesses who are under investigation in Russia.


The American representative at the O.S.C.E. called Moscow to release immediately all detained Jehovah's Witnesses, including the already convicted Christensen, and to close the criminal cases against them and to halt confiscation of property of the religious organization.


In early February a court in Orel sentenced Danish citizen Dennis Christensen to six years incarceration. He was found guilty of extremism because of participation in a local congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses.


Vladimir Putin, at a meeting with members of the presidential Council on Human Rights in December 2018, called the charge that Jehovah's Witnesses are extremists "nonsense." He noted that the government should treat representatives of all religions identically and not label them as "some kind of destructive organizations." (tr. by PDS, posted 16 February 2019)



Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, 15 February 2019


On 8 February 2019, the board of Memorial: An International Historical, Educational, Human Rights and Charitable Society issued a statement in which it demanded the immediate release of Dennis Christensen and other detained Jehovah's Witnesses.


Referencing the decision of the Supreme Court to ban Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia as an extremist organization, the rights advocates emphasized: "This shameful and illegal decision placed Russia among the countries with the most odious regimes. Jehovah's Witnesses were cruelly persecuted in hitlerian Germany. Jehovah's Witnesses operate freely in all democratic countries. [. . .] The six years that Christensen received for exercising his constitutional right to freedom of religious confession is fully equivalent to sentences that Jehovah's Witnesses received under soviet authorities."


The rights advocates again called attention to the incompatibility of the persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses with common sense: "The situation is absurd when Jehovah's Witnesses, who were convicted under soviet authorities (Memorial knows of many hundreds of such destroyed fates), are acknowledged as victims of political repressions in accordance with the federal law on rehabilitation of 1991, while simultaneously current followers of Jehovah's Witnesses are sent to prisons."


Summarizing its message, Memorial International concluded: "This sentence again confirms the depravity of Russian 'anti-extremism' legislation that permits almost everybody to be labeled as extremists. We demand the annulment of the anticonstitutional prohibition of the Jehovah's Witnesses." (tr. by PDS, posted 16 February 2019)


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