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Jehovah's Witness on Trial for 'Extremism' Likens Authorities to Stalin

Rogue Valley

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Jehovah's Witness on Trial for 'Extremism' Likens Authorities to Stalin

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Iryna Christensen outside a courtroom in Oryol, Russia.

1/22/19
The first Jehovah's Witness detained for extremism in Russia has likened the authorities' behavior to that of Josef Stalin's Soviet Union ahead of a verdict in his trial. Armed police scaled the gates of a compound where the Christian denomination was meeting in Oryol, some 320 kilometers south of Moscow, in May 2017 and detained Dennis Christensen, a Danish national, on extremism charges. He has spent the last 20 months in a cold cell with suspected drug dealers and only been allowed to meet his wife, separated by bars and a corridor, twice a month. If convicted, he could spend up to a decade in jail. The trial of the 46-year-old builder is seen by the United States and the European Union as a litmus test for religious freedom, and the latest twist in a worsening East-West standoff. But Russia's latest falling-out with the West, triggered by Moscow's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, spurred a more determined drive to push out "the enemy within." After Crimea was seized, a giant poster hung in central Moscow bearing the faces of Kremlin critics and labeling them as "a fifth column." One of them, opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, was later shot dead. It was in that atmosphere that a court in Oryol outlawed the local Jehovah's Witnesses in 2016, and Russia's Supreme Court in 2017 found the group to be an "extremist" organization and ordered it to disband nationwide.

More than 100 criminal cases have been opened against Jehovah's Witnesses and some of their publications are on a list of banned extremist literature. "I'm afraid that history is now repeating itself," Christiansen told Reuters in an interview carried out over two days, during breaks in his trial. "I'm afraid that it's actually like Stalin has come back." Speaking from a glass cage in the courtroom, Christiansen denied organizing the activities of an extremist group, but said he feared he would be sentenced to at least six years in jail. "Of course I hope that he [the judge] will be just," he said. "But I also know which country I’ve been living in." Court hearings have heard that Christiansen had his phones tapped for nine months and that someone infiltrated the Jehovah's Witnesses in Oryol and secretly filmed them. Iryna, his wife, said she found it hard to believe that Russia was going after Jehovah's Witnesses after recognizing that the Soviet Union's treatment of them had been illegal. "They’re being persecuted again for the same thing - their beliefs," she said. "The only difference is that at that time they were called 'enemies of the people'. Now they are called 'extremists.'"

Some things in Vladimir Putin's Russia are indeed very similar to the times of Joseph Stalin. Those considered to be opponents of the regime are persecuted and arrested, with "show trials" in Russian kangaroo courts.

The verdicts are predetermined. The only variable is the length of sentence in a penal colony. Forget what the Russian constitution says, there are no constraints against state persecution in Putin's Russia.

Related: Cast in Russia as 'enemy within', Jehovah's Witnesses see Soviet history replay
 

Rogue Valley

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Russian Prosecutor Seeks Nearly Seven-Year Sentence For Danish Jehovah's Witness

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Dennis Christensen at his trial in Oryol, Russia for "extremism".

1/23/19
A Russian prosecutor has asked a court to sentence a Danish man to 6 1/2 years in prison for his affiliation with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the U.S.-based denomination deemed by Russia to be extremist. Russian news reports said the prosecutor in the southern city of Oryol made the demand during a court hearing on January 23 in the case against Dennis Christensen. The 46-year-old Christensen, who was detained in May 2017, is believed to be the first person to go on trial in Russia for his affiliation with the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Putin's political and religious repressions are rapidly increasing as his popularity plummets.
 

Elora

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This is heartbreaking but not surprising...we preach the good news of God's kingdom and the changes it will bring, so I guess that is a threat to some political leaders, just as it was in Jesus' day...
 

Lafayette

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If there was ever any freedom of religion in Russia (other than the RussianOrthodox Church) I would lie to know where.

Moreover, what has existed since before Yeltsin is a ad rush by a select few to corner markets for metals, gases, minrals and the like.

With the wealth thus obtained exported out of Russia for the unique benefit of the “kleptocrats”.

Russia has a long way to go to assure Russians a truly democratic nation.
 

Litwin

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If there was ever any freedom of religion in Russia (other than the RussianOrthodox Church) I would lie to know where.

Moreover, what has existed since before Yeltsin is a ad rush by a select few to corner markets for metals, gases, minrals and the like.

With the wealth thus obtained exported out of Russia for the unique benefit of the “kleptocrats”.

Russia has a long way to go to assure Russians a truly democratic nation.

Islam dominates ROC in Muscovy

 

Lafayette

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Russia has far, far more of the Orthodox Christian religion than Muslims.

From WikiPedia: Religion in Russia

Religion in Russia (2012)
Orthodox Christianity (42.5%)
Unaffiliated Christians (4.1%)
Other Christians[a] (0.5%)
Spiritual but not religious (25%)
Atheists (13%)
Muslims (6.5%)
Pagans[c] (1.3%)
 
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