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Main » Russian Federation jails 'extremist' Jehovah's Witness for six years

Russian Federation jails 'extremist' Jehovah's Witness for six years

08 Февраля 2019

Dennis Christensen, a Jehovah's Witness accused of extremism, leaves after a court session in handcuffs in the town of Oryol, Russia January 14, 2019. He was detained by police in late May 2017, becoming the first Jehovah's Witness to be arrested after the Supreme Court's controversial ruling.

He was the first Jehovah's Witness to be detained in Russian Federation following the ban.

Al Jazeera's Rory Challands reports from Moscow.

According to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Christensen and 15 Russian citizens were arrested in Oryol at a Jehovah's Witness prayer meeting on May 25, 2017, when the Federal Security Service (FSB) raided the building.

Jehovah's Witnesses are the target of an anti-extremism crackdown by the Russian state, which has banned much of its religious literature as extremist material.

In a report a year ago, Human Rights Watch accused the Russian authorities of carrying out a "sweeping campaign" of harassment and persecution against the movement.

Yaroslav Sivulsky, a spokesperson for the Jehovah's Witnesses, told Reuters that they consider the verdict to be unjust.

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Reuters interviewed Christensen in his jail cell during breaks in the trial.

Earlier in the day, the court of the Russian city of Oryol convicted Christensen, who continued to head the community after it had been banned by the national legislation, of illegal religious activity.

"Deeply concerned by the sentencing of Dennis Christensen".

Almost 100 members of the group face charges in Russian Federation, and more than 20 of them are in jail awaiting trial. His lawyers believe the verdict is unreasonable and will be appealing the decision.

In turn, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov promised to look into the situation with Christensen.

As a member of the Council of Europe and a party to the European Convention on Human Rights, Russia is obligated to protect the rights to freedom of religion and association. "It's shocking that in post-Soviet Russia authorities are putting people through the ordeal of a criminal investigation and prison for nothing more than peacefully practicing their faith". "It is sad that reading the bible, preaching, and living a moral way of life is again a criminal offense in Russia", Sivulskiy said in a public statement on Wednesday.

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Russian Federation jails 'extremist' Jehovah's Witness for six years