JUNE 2, 2017
Update: The hearing scheduled for June 7, 2017, has been postponed indefinitely.
At 2:00 p.m. on June 7, 2017, the Oryol Regional Court will hear the appeal against the pretrial detention of Danish citizen Dennis Christensen. Mr. Christensen, an elder in the Oryol Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, was arrested on May 25, 2017, when police raided the congregation’s midweek religious service.
In the Russian government’s long-running attack on the religious freedom of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Oryol Local Religious Organization (LRO) was charged with “extremist activity” and liquidated in June 2016. Now that the Supreme Court has liquidated the Administrative Center and the LROs of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, the Federal Security Service (FSB) are alleging that by gathering for worship, the Witnesses in Oryol are continuing the activity of an illegal extremist organization.
The FSB initiated a criminal investigation against Mr. Christensen because they claim that he was a member of the liquidated Oryol LRO. However, Mr. Christensen has never been a member of that legal entity. He is now being held in pretrial detention until July 23, 2017, because the prosecutor considers that as a foreign citizen, he may flee before the FSB can gather evidence to establish their case against him.
In addition to appealing Mr. Christensen’s detention, Jehovah’s Witnesses are updating their complaints filed with international tribunals. In the wake of the Supreme Court decision, many of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia are experiencing societal abuses and the negative consequences of government actions.