Reports about Jehovah's Witness prisoner of conscience


Shortly thereafter he was visited by members of presidential council

Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, 20 August 2019


In late July 2019, employees of the prison colony where Dennis Christensen is serving his sentence planted a knife on him—and immediately "discovered" it in front of a video camera. This incident was used to pressure the believer. Support for him came with a visit by Andrei Babushkin from the presidential Council on Human Rights. Rights advocates were seeking information about the conditions of his confinement and about respect for human rights.


The leadership of the colony, principally the deputy commander, Igor Miasniankin, has unsuccessfully tried to prevent Dennis Christensen from conducting conversations about the Bible with cellmates, although this is not forbidden by the rules of the colony. The believer insists on his constitutional right to freedom of religious confession. In some cases, even those who stand guard for human rights by virtue of their occupation find themselves under the influence of wide-spread stereotypes. For example, the ombudsman for human rights for Kursk oblast, Vladimir Firson, expressed surprise in a meeting with Dennis Christensen that "a sectarian from abroad could come into our Orthodox country."


After visiting her husband in the penal colony, Irina Christensen informed his attorney about the horrible conditions of Dennis Christensen's detention in the colony. For example, she had to await the visit while standing for eight hours in a stuffy corridor where all the windows were nailed shut or painted over. There are puddles in the prison dormitory, the toilets are out of order, and mice, mosquitoes, and cockroaches abound. Visitors are stripped to their underwear for inspection. In the investigative cells where dozens of Jehovah's Witnesses are kept, living conditions are better, as a rule.


Along with Andrei Babushkin, Christensen's corrective penal colony (IK-3 for Kursk oblast in Lgov) was visited by a member of the Council on Human Rights, Maria Bolshakova. Andrei Babushkin himself is the head of the standing Commission for Promoting Public Monitoring, Reform of the Penitentiary System, and Prevention of Violations of Law. In February 2019, Babushkin demanded the end to the criminal activity of security personnel who were responsible for the torture of detained Jehovah's Witnesses in Surgut. At that time he sent an appeal to the office of the prosecutor general and head of the SKR (Investigative Committee of Russia).


In June 2017, Dennis Christensen filed an appeal in the European Court of Human Rights. Subsequently the kingdom of Denmark joined the case "Christensen v. Russia" as a third party. At the present time, the case is under consideration. The believer has been recognized as a prisoner of conscience by the Memorial Russian organization and the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom. The European Union has called for releasing Christensen "immediately and unconditionally." The United Nations has spoken in the same spirit, urging the Russian government to release all persons who are detained for their peaceful religious convictions. (tr. by PDS, posted 20 August 2019)


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