Russia releases jailed Danish Jehovah’s Witness, group says

MOSCOW (AP) — A Danish Jehovah’s Witness was released Tuesday after spending five years in a Russian prison under Moscow’s crackdown on the religious group and was to be sent home, the organization said.

Russia officially banned the Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2017, and designated the religious denomination “an extremist organization” in connection to its alleged “propaganda of exclusivity.” Danish member Dennis Christensen, 49, was arrested that year for leading a prayer meeting, and was handed a six-year prison sentence in 2019.

In a statement Tuesday, Jehovah’s Witnesses accused Russia of subjecting Christensen to “unreasonable penalties” during his rime at a penal colony in the southern Kursk region. The group had previously claimed that he was denied medical treatment and was harassed by prison authorities.

The group said Christensen was set to be deported from Russia on Tuesday night. It cited his wife as saying that he is “in a good emotional state.”

There was no immediate confirmation from Russian judicial sources.

In June 2020, the Lgov district court paroled Christensen after he served half of his sentence, and replaced the remaining three years with a fine of 50,000 rubles ($5.250). However, that ruling was overturned by the Kursk Regional Court after local prosecutors appealed the parole, insisting that Christensen had violated prison rules.

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