Photo: Dennis Christensen

Inside Penal Colonies and Detention Centers

The Colony Administration Increased Pressure on Dennis Christensen, Trying to Prevent Him From Going Free

Oryol Region,   Kursk Region

At the Lgov colony, where Dennis Christensen, one of Jehovah's Witnesses, is serving his term for faith, administrators imposed numerous absurd penalties on him to block the paying of a fine in lieu of unserved time. For example, one of the supposed “violations” was “sleeping at the time that was not set according to the daily routine.” At the time, he complained of poor health after being hospitalized for pneumonia. The prosecutor's office intervened in the case, calling the penalties illegal.

Dane Dennis Christensen, who was sentenced in February 2019 to 6 years in prison for believing in Jehovah God, has already served more than half of his sentence, and, using his legal right, filed petitions with the court with a request to replace the unserved part of the sentence with a fine.

After that, pressure increased on Christensen in the colony: the administration falsifies or tries to provoke the believer to violations, the presence of which will make mitigation of punishment or early release impossible (Part 3 of Article 175 of the Penal Code of Russia).

To date, four ridiculous penalties (reprimands) have already been imposed on Christensen. For example, one of the "violations" concerned the fact that the believer "on November 7, 2019, slept, lying in his bed at an unallotted time by the daily routine." At the same time, he complained of feeling unwell. In his decision to cancel this penalty, the prosecutor indicated that just two weeks before these events, Dennis was in the hospital with pneumonia, and the administration of the colony did not take into account this fact, as well as the state of health of the convict. In response, the prison authorities appealed the prosecutor's decision in order to recognize the penalty as legitimate and leave Christensen behind bars.

Moreover, the administration started a diary in which it records the behavior of the believer, and also compiled a description of him, in which, among other things, she indicated that Christensen was "melancholic, leads a reclusive lifestyle." It is noteworthy that earlier the deputy head of the colony, Igor Myasnyankin, forced Christensen to stop communicating with other prisoners, in particular, to discuss with them faith in God.

"Dennis Christensen has behaved and is behaving correctly towards the staff of the colony. As an independent initiative, he organized free English language training for other prisoners. The pressure from the administration is unmotivated and looks like nitpicking because of someone's personal hostility, which a decent person is forced to pay for with his freedom, "Yaroslav Sivulsky, a representative of the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses, comments on the situation.

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.
Timeline

Persons in case

Criminal case

Region:
Oryol Region
Locality:
Oryol
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:
11707540001500164
Initiated:
May 23, 2017
Current case stage:
The verdict entered into force
Investigating:
UFSB of Russia in the Oryol region
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1)
Court case number:
1-37/1
[i18n] Рассмотрено судом первой инстанции:
Железнодорожный районный суд г. Орла
Judge:
Алексей Николаевич Руднев
[i18n] Суд апелляционной инстанции:
Орловский областной суд
[i18n] Суд апелляционной инстанции:
Льговский райсуд Курской области
Background