Mon, 10 Aug 2020

Prosecutors in Russia have appealed the parole granted by a court last week to a Danish member of the Jehovah's Witnesses who has been imprisoned since 2017, his lawyer says.

A judge in southwestern Russia paroled Dennis Christensen on June 23 after he served half of a six-year sentence on extremism charges that have been condemned by rights groups in Russia and abroad.

Christensen was also ordered to pay a fine of 400,000 rubles ($5,800) in place of serving the rest of his sentence.

But his lawyer, Anton Bogdanov, told Human Rights Watch (HRW) on July 1 that the prosecutor's office has appealed the grant of parole, arguing Christensen allegedly violated prison rules.

Christensen is to remain in custody until a court hearing on the appeal.

"This is, of course, completely outrageous. But no less outrageous than the original charges against Christensen," the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement.

Russia banned the Jehovah's Witnesses in 2017 and declared the religious group an extremist organization.

According to the denomination, 353 adherents are facing criminal cases in Russia, 34 are imprisoned, and 24 are under house arrest.

In June, a court in northwestern Russia sentenced Gennady Shpakovsky to 6 1/2 years in prison -- the longest sentence handed to a Jehovah's Witness so far.

Russia "has absolutely nothing to gain from the pointless, cruel, and abusive persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses," HRW said, urging the authorities to "immediately free Christensen and stop wasting time and resources on these prosecutions."

In September, the United States banned two high-ranking regional officers from Russia's Investigative Committee from entering the United States over the alleged torture of seven detainees who are Jehovah's Witnesses.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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