A six-year prison sentence was upheld in Russia against a Jehovah’s Witness for “extremism” in a case that has drawn widespread condemnation.
The Russian government outlawed the Jehovah’s Witness religious movement in 2017. 46-year-old Dennis Christensen is the first person to face jail time since the religious practice was banned. In February, he was sentenced to six years in prison.
Christensen has said that he “never committed any criminal acts.” He appealed the jail sentence, but a court upheld the sentence Thursday.
A spokesman for the Jehovah’s Witnesses accused Russia of returning to crackdowns on religious believers.
The human rights group, Amnesty International, called Christensen a “prisoner of conscience jailed for his faith.”
Following Christensen’s conviction, there are reports of more than 115 Jehovah’s Witnesses that have had their homes raided in Russia, with 74 criminal cases brought against them. Russian authorities have detained several Jehovah’s Witnesses, some of whom say they were tortured.
“This brings the total number of Jehovah’s Witnesses under investigation in the country to 188,” the rights group said in a statement. “Today’s decision sends a bleak message that reprisals will continue and much worse may still come,” it warned.
Photo: Courtesy of Jehovah’s Witnesses