A Jehovah’s Witness member has been sentenced to six years in jail for extremism in Russia, years after the religious group was outlawed in the country.
Danish citizen Dennis Christensen was in court in the southern Russian city of Oryol for the sentencing, spokesman for the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia Yaroslav Sivulskiy told AFP.
“We deeply regret the conviction of Dennis Christensen — an innocent man who did not commit any real crime,” Sivulskiy said in a statement.
It is sad that reading the Bible, preaching, and living a moral way of life is again a criminal offence in Russia.”
The Jehovah’s Witnesses, a US-based Christian evangelical movement, will appeal the verdict within 10 days, according to a statement from the organization’s head office.
An AFP photographer outside the courtroom saw Christensen, 46, being led past a mass of supporters by police officers following the verdict.
Rights groups have condemned the trial, with Amnesty International saying it was “emblematic of the grave human rights violations” taking place in Russia.
Christensen was arrested in Oryol in May 2017, a month after Russia’s Supreme Court ruled that the religious group should be closed down and no longer allowed to operate in the country.
He was the first Jehovah’s Witness to be detained in Russia following the ban. Since then, dozens of other members of the group have been detained and face similar charges of extremism.