NOVEMBER 24, 2017
UPDATE: On December 22, 2017, the Oryol Regional Court denied an appeal filed by Mr. Christensen’s attorney for his release from pretrial detention. The term of his detention expires on February 23, 2018, by which time he will have another day in court, possibly to face criminal charges.
At the conclusion of a three-hour hearing on November 20, 2017, the Sovietskiy District Court of Oryol, Russia, extended the pretrial detention of Dennis Christensen until February 23, 2018. This is the second time the court has extended Mr. Christensen’s imprisonment for an additional three months. He has been detained without trial since his arrest in May 2017, when police raided a peaceful religious meeting in Oryol that he was attending.
Mr. Christensen is a Danish citizen and one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Prior to his arrest, Russia’s Supreme Court effectively banned the religious activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses as extremist. The district court once again extended the term of pretrial detention to permit the investigator to gather “evidence” to support a conviction for alleged illegal religious activity. The court refused to consider placing him under house arrest during the ongoing investigation and ignored the Danish government’s assurance that it would not issue a passport to Mr. Christensen or otherwise assist him to leave the country.
At the time of his arrest, Mr. Christensen and his wife, who is a Russian citizen, were exercising their fundamental right to freedom of religion and association. The court can order that he be kept in pretrial detention for up to two years. If convicted, he faces a prison term of six to ten years.