Dennis Christensen

Name: Dennis Christensen

Country/Area of Origin: Russia

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.

Latest Updates:

  • In June 2022, USCIRF issued a press statement welcoming Christensen’s release:
    • “After enduring years of unjust imprisonment and inhumane living conditions – all for the peaceful exercise of his faith – Dennis Christensen is a free man. We are elated to see Mr. Christensen finally permitted to leave the country and return to his native Denmark. Unfortunately, Dennis Christensen is not the only member of a religious community whom Russia has unjustifiable incarcerated on bogus allegations of involvement in an ‘extremist’ or terrorist group. The Russian government should immediately release all those it has imprisoned for their peaceful religious practice or affiliation and put an end to its persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses and other religious minorities.”
  • On 24 May 2022, it was reported that Christensen had finally been released from detention in Russia after five years of unjust imprisonment and was immediately deported to his homeland, Denmark. Upon his return, Christensen made the following remarks:
    • “I’m very happy to be released from prison and reunited with my dear wife, Irina. The support and encouragement from the worldwide brotherhood was a gift from Jehovah. I continue to pray for my courageous brothers and sisters who are being persecuted and imprisoned for their faith.”
  • In October 2020, USCIRF condemned the reversal of Christensen’s parole:
    • “USCIRF is appalled by Russia’s treatment of Dennis Christensen. There is clearly an official vendetta against this poor man, who is guilty only of peacefully practicing his faith. Instead of showing mercy, the state is treating him like a dangerous criminal. This is an egregious miscarriage of justice.” – USCIRF Chair Gayle Manchin
  • In early July 2020, 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.”
  • In 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.