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Human rights groups blow up Russia to judge a Jehovah's Witness for 6 years in prison



On Wednesday, Dennis Christensen was found guilty of violating a Russian law that prohibits "organization of a public or religious association … or prohibition of extremist activities", according to TASS, Russia's state-run news agency.

A court in Oryol in western Russia sentenced Christensen to six years in a criminal colony, according to TASS. Christensen's lawyer says he will appeal the decision.

Christensen's conviction is part of a campaign against Jehovah's Witnesses and other minority religions, say religious freedom advocates, as Russian Orthodox Christians seek to preserve their cultural dominance.

In 2017, Russia's Supreme Court banned Jehovah's Witnesses as an "extremist organization." According to a spokesman for religion, 1

20 Jehovah's Witnesses stand for criminal charges in Russia, with 24 in assembly and 28 under house arrest.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said she is "deeply concerned" by Christensen's conviction.

"The harsh punishment imposed on Christensen creates a dangerous precedent and effectively criminalizes the right to religious freedom or belief in Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia," Bachelet said.

Religious freedom advocates in the United States also expressed concern.

"Dennis Christensen's conviction represents the continued deterioration of religious freedom in (President Vladimir) Putin's Russia," said Kristina Arriaga, Vice-President of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

"It is obviously not enough for the state to feel peaceful groups like Jehovah's Witnesses extremist", it must also capture their members.

The Commission last year called for Russia to designated as a "special concern country" under the International Law on Freedom of Religion.The US Department of State has also placed Russia on a watch list to "engage in or tolerate serious violations of religious freedom."

According to a report by the The US Government on International Freedom has "continued to target non-traditional" religious minorities, including Jehovah's Witnesses and Scientologists, with fines, detentions, and criminal charges under the pretext of combating extremism. of the Bible and their followers were persecuted nationwide. "[19659002] Putin sent mixed messages about the persecution of Witnesses during a press conference in December. Asked why his government went for a peaceful group, Putin dismissed as a characterization as "complete indecency."

But he added: "We should not forget that our society does not consist exclusively of religious sects. Ninety percent of Russian citizens or they consider Orthodox Christians … We should treat representatives of all religions in the same way – it is true, but it is also necessary to take into account the country and society in which we live. "

In a statement, the European Union strongly condemned Christensen's beliefs.

"The European Union expects Christensen to be released immediately and unconditionally. Jehovah's Witnesses, as with all other religious groups, must be able to peacefully enjoy the freedom of freedom without interference, as guaranteed by the Russian Federation's constitution, as well as by Russia's International Commitments and International Human Rights Standards. "

Prior to the ban, there were about 170,000 Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, according to the group. Known for their door-to-door evangelization and refusal to serve in the military, Jehovah's Witnesses were founded in the United States in the late 19th century.

Christensen's group was "recognized as extremist" in 2016, according to TASS. A year later, he was detained and imprisoned for 622 days ago, a Jehovah's Witness spokesman said.

"The regional prosecutor's office clarified that the hell knew that Jehovah's Witnesses were banned, but he continued to hold meetings and distribute books and brochures," TASS reported.

"Jehovah's Witnesses have a well-established international reputation for being a peaceful, law-abiding citizen," said Paul Gillies, a spokesman for Jehovah's Witnesses.

"It is our hope that the Russian authorities will take this opportunity to correct the unfair decision to ban our activities that have entailed the detention of our accomplices."

Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen said on Twitter that he is "deeply concerned about the judges of Dennis Christensen."

"We again urge #Russia to respect religious freedom. The Danish Foreign Minister will continue to follow closely and help Dennis Christensen if he decides to appeal," said Samuelsen and referred to the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In a court statement in January, Christensen said: "Six and a half years because I am an honest person who respects the laws of the country. Six and a half years because I am a believer who loves his neighbor as himself. that I am a good neighbor, I participated in the construction of a playground. Six and a half years because I am Jehovah's Witness who loves the Russian people. "

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