Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). Photo source: Adrian Grycuk / CC BY-SA 3.0 PL

Human Rights

PACE observers called for Christensen's release without waiting for an appeal


On February 7, 2019, observers of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) expressed serious concern about the verdict against Dennis Christensen. They stated: "The accusation and imprisonment of Christensen only for confessing his faith is an unacceptable violation of the right to freedom of religion."

"The speakers expressed the hope that Christensen's conviction would be overturned by the decision of the Court of Appeal and called on the Russian authorities to release him while the appeal is pending."

The observers recalled that the European Court of Human Rights had previously defended the right of Jehovah's Witnesses to conduct religious activities without interference from the Russian authorities. In addition, PACE itself has previously expressed concern about the abuse of the law on countering extremism by the Russian authorities. Thus, on April 21, 2017, PACE issued a statement stating, among other things: "The recent decision of the Supreme Court to declare the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in the Russian Federation an extremist organization and to close it and 395 local religious organizations of the Witnesses raises serious concerns about religious freedom in Russia, and also serves as another example of how anti-extremist legislation is used to suppress freedom of expression opinions and peaceful assemblies" (source).

Case of Christensen in Oryol

Case History
Dennis Christensen is the first Jehovah’s Witness in modern Russia to be imprisoned only because of his faith. He was arrested in May 2017. The FSB accused the believer of organizing the activities of a banned organization on the basis of the testimony of a secret witness, theologian Oleg Kurdyumov from a local university, who kept covert audio and video recordings of conversations with Christensen about faith. There are no extremist statements or victims in the case. In 2019, the court sentenced Christensen to 6 years in prison. The believer was serving time in the Lgov colony. He repeatedly asked for the replacement of part of the unserved term with a fine. For the first time, the court granted the request, but the prosecutor’s office appealed this decision, and the prison administration threw the believer into a punishment cell on trumped-up charges. Christensen developed illnesses that prevented him from working in prison. On May 24, 2022, the believer was released after serving his sentence and was immediately deported to his homeland, Denmark.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Oryol Region
Suspected of:
according to the investigation, together with the others he conducted religious services, which is interpreted as “organising the activity of an extremist organisation” (with reference to the court’s decision on the liquidation of the local organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses)
Court case number:
May 23, 2017
Current case stage:
the verdict entered into force
UFSB of Russia in the Oryol region
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1)
Court case number:
[i18n] Рассмотрено судом первой инстанции:
Железнодорожный районный суд г. Орла
Алексей Николаевич Руднев
[i18n] Суд апелляционной инстанции:
Орловский областной суд
[i18n] Суд апелляционной инстанции:
Льговский райсуд Курской области
Case History