Russia releases Danish Jehovah’s Witness from prison
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Russia releases Danish Jehovah’s Witness from prison

Russian authorities Tuesday released Dennis Christensen, a Danish citizen and Jehovah’s Witness, from prison. According to a statement made by the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia organization, Christensen was arrested in May 2017 and was the first Jehovah’s Witness arrested as part of the Russian government’s crackdown on the religious sect. The organization said riot police “invaded the worship building of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The believer [Christensen] was handcuffed and accused of organizing the activities of a religious organization banned by the court.”

In 2019, a Russian court sentenced Christensen to six years in prison for violating laws concerning the practice of “extremist” religions. The European Union sharply criticized Christensen’s sentence, saying:

Jehovah’s Witnesses, as with all other religious groups, must be able to peacefully enjoy freedom of assembly without interference, as guaranteed by the Constitution of the Russian Federation, as well as by Russia’s international commitments and international human rights standards.

Because Christensen was detained prior to his trial, he spent nearly five years behind bars. The Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russian organization told the Moscow Times that it expects Christensen to be deported and arrive in Denmark on Wednesday.

Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia praised the decision to mitigate Christensen’s sentence. However, there is still fear of religious persecution for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, and prosecutor’s continue to charge people for practicing the religion.