Trial of Danish Jehovah's Witness recessed until next week


Orlovskie Novosti, 8 May 2019


The Orel oblast court refused to grant the petition of the defense of Dane Dennis Christensen for releasing the defendant on bail during consideration of the appeal, an Orel News correspondent relates from the courtroom.


The petition was considered on 8 May, on the second day of hearings on the appeal. Christensen's lawyers proposed releasing their client on bail or under house arrest and also putting an electronic bracelet or tracer on the Dane. In the opinion of lawyer Anton Bogdanov, the defendant now would be unable to influence the course of proceedings, since the sentence of the court of first instance has already been issued. The state prosecutor, Liudmila Bushueva, spoke against a change in the measure of restriction. In her opinion, there are no grounds for it.


After deliberating on the spot, the court ordered that satisfaction of the petition be denied.


After that, the sides continued to enunciate their positions on the appeal. Christensen's lawyers insist that in Russia, only the legal entity "Jehovah's Witnesses—Orel" has been ruled to be extremist and prohibited, while the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses itself may not be forbidden so long as the constitution of the Russian Federation is in effect. As an example, Bogdanov cited the decision by Boris Yeltsin in 1991 banning the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The defense attorney said that the organization was banned, but not the ideas of Lenin, Marx, and Engels. Anyone who wished could study communist literature, which could easily be found in libraries. In the opinion of the defense, Christensen should be acquitted, inasmuch as there was no criminal event.


The state prosecution's position has not changed. The guilty verdict, issued by the court of the first instance, is final and justified. There are no arguments for its change.


The Orel oblast court heard the parties and declared a recess until next week. After the resumption of the hearings, the parties will be given time for statements in the debate.


Dennis Christensen was sentenced on 6 February 2019 to six years imprisonment for organizing the activity of the "Jehovah's Witnesses—Orel" association, which is extremist and forbidden in Russia. The international community has condemned the actions of the Russian judicial system, seeing in this sentence an infringement on the freedom of religious confession. Notes of protest have been expressed by the European Union, the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and rights advocacy organizations.


Lawyers appealed the sentence in Orel oblast court. The hearing on the appeal began on 7 May. Christensen himself, in his final word in the court of first instance, requested acquittal and apologies. (tr. by PDS, posted 8 May 2019)



TASS, 8 May 2019


The Orel oblast court rejected the appeal of the defense and left Danish subject Dennis Christensen, who was ruled to be guilty of arranging the activity of the religious congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses (ruled to be extremist and banned in the RF) in Orel, in detention. This was reported Wednesday to TASS by his attorney Anton Bogdanov.


The review of the appeal of the sentence and the measure of restriction by the Zheleznodorozhny district court, which sentenced Christensen to six years of imprisonment to be served in a penal colony of general regime, began in the afternoon of 7 May. Because of the great amount of information, the review will last for several days and will presumably conclude on 17 May.


"We proposed alternatives, including house arrest or release on bail, but the court decided to leave Dennis Christensen in detention," Bogdanov said.


The guilty verdict was issued by the Zheleznodorozhny district court of Orel on 6 February. According to information of the investigation, the Dane knew that the Orel division of the Jehovah's Witnesses religious organization had been ruled by a court to be extremist in 2016, but he continued to conduct meetings and to distribute books and brochures.


The United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, called the guilty verdict against Christensen a "dangerous precedent" and she urged a review of the court's decision. Concern over the sentence was expressed also by observers of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The Danish division of the rights organization Amnesty International acknowledged Christensen to be a prisoner of conscience and called the judicial process a "political prosecution." (tr. by PDS, posted 9 May 2019)

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