World News

Tension as Russian court jails Jehovah’s Witness member

Tension as Russian court jails Jehovah’s Witness member

Danish Jehovah's Witness Dennis Christensen has become the first member of the religious group to be jailed for extremist offences in Russian Federation.

The verdict was met with consternation around the world including from the U.S. Embassy, which expressed its concern and urged Russian Federation to respect individual's religious freedom. He is the first member of the Jehovah's Witness to be sentenced for extremism, Tanya Lokshina, the Moscow-based associate director for Human Rights Watch's Europe and Central Asia division, told The Washington Post.

Armed FSB officers detained Christensen in Oryol in May 2017, shortly after Moscow banned Jehovah's Witnesses as an extremist organisation.

Dennis Christensen is escorted inside a courthouse following the verdict announcement.

Christensen's pretrial detention since May 25, 2017, will be counted one and a half times toward his prison sentence.

However, he was found guilty by the court on Wednesday, February 6 for organising a meeting of a banned group.

Freedom of religion is guaranteed under Russia's modern constitution - but exceptions exist under extremism laws.

It was reported that "more than 100 criminal cases have been opened against Jehovah's Witnesses, with another 24 people in prison awaiting or on trial and a similar number under house arrest".

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"It is sad that reading the Bible, reaching, and living a moral way of life is again a criminal offence in Russian Federation", said Yaroslav Sivulsky or the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses.

"The Russian authorities must halt persecution of estimated 175,000 Jehovah's Witnesses who are simply peacefully exercising their right to freedom of religion".

Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, said there were clearly reasons for Christiansen's arrest but he was unaware of details.

That ruling dealt a blow to the almost 400 chapters of Jehovah's Witnesses across the country.

"It is sad that reading the Bible, preaching, and living a moral way of life is again a criminal offense in Russia", Sivulskiy said.

Christensen's lawyer says he plans to appeal.

"The man was sentenced to six years behind bars, because he, along with others of the same religious beliefs, read the Bible and spread their religious views", Bogdanov said.


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