MOSCOW – A Danish Jehovah’s Witness was released on Tuesday and will be sent home after spending five years in a Russian prison under the Moscow crackdown on religious groups, the agency said.
Russia officially banned Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2017, and designated the religious community as “an extremist organization” for its alleged “propaganda of separatism.” Danish member Dennis Christensen, 49, was arrested that year for leading a prayer meeting and was sentenced in 2019 to six years in prison.
In a statement issued Tuesday, Jehovah’s Witnesses accused Russia of “unreasonably punishing” Christensen during his rule in a penny colony in the southern Kursk region. The group had previously claimed that he had been denied medical treatment and that he had been harassed by prison authorities.
The group said Christensen would be deported from Russia on Tuesday night. It quoted his wife as saying he was “in a good mood.”
Russia’s judiciary could not immediately confirm this.
In June 2020, the Lgov District Court paroled Christensen after serving half of his sentence and replacing him with a fine of 50,000 rubles ($ 5,250) for the remaining three years. However, after local prosecutors appealed for parole, the Kursk regional court overturned the verdict after insisting that Christensen had violated prison rules.