photo by Newsweek
Name: Dennis Christensen
Background: Dennis Christensen is a practicing Jehovah’s Witness. Since 2017, the government of Russia has embarked on a campaign to target and detain Jehovah’s witnesses and shut down their churches in different localities.
Reason for arrest: In 2017, the Federal Security Service ambushed a worship service for Jehovah’s Witnesses in the city Oryol- they temporarily detained a total of 70 to 80 Jehovah’s Witnesses in attendance before releasing the majority the next day. In total, 16 were formally arrested, including Christensen. In January 2019, Christensen was charged with “continuing the activities of an extremist group” and sentenced to six years in prison. Christensen’s appeal was rejected and his sentence upheld in late May.
Current status as of July 2020:
- LATEST: In early July, it was confirmed that Christensen’s parole had been appealed by prosecutor Aleksei Shatunov, and that his parole has now been reversed. Christensen remains in prison while a new hearing is being planned, but concerns have been raised regarding his health. If Christensen’s parole is fully rejected following the upcoming hearing, he will not finish his sentence until May 2022.
- On June 23, 2020, it was announced that Lgov District Court granted Christensen parole- according to USCIRF, “the court ordered that the remainder of his sentence be replaced with a fine of 400,000 rubles (roughly $6,000) and he will be released upon payment.”
- As of late October 2019, Christensen, who is located at Lgov’s Penal Colony 3, reportedly recovered from pneumonia.
- “Christensen’s health problems began back in June, when he sought medical attention for severe pain in his left shoulder. Dennis was not treated on time due to the fact that the surgeon and neurologist at the prison hospital were on vacation, and the possibility to invite a doctor from a paid clinic, the attending physician refused him. In September, Dennis suffered from pneumonia caused by regular prolonged hypothermia. By the time the night frost broke out, prisoners in colony 3 were not given warm clothes….” He was eventually transferred to a penal colony with a hospital and treated, and has since recovered.