RFE/RL – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (Author)
A court in southwestern Russia has granted early release to a Danish member of the Jehovah's Witnesses who had been imprisoned since 2017, the religious denomination says.
It said a judge in the Lgovskiy District Court on June 23 released Dennis Christensen from prison, three years into a six-year sentence.
A spokesman for the denomination's world headquarters in the United States said Christensen was ordered to pay a fine of 400,000 rubles ($5,800) in place of serving out the rest of his sentence.
“We are pleased that Dennis may be going home to his wife, family, and friends in the coming weeks,” said the spokesman, Jarrod Lopes.
"However, it is unconscionable, after Dennis’s harrowing experiences in prison, that he should have to pay a fine," Lopes added.
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.
Christensen was arrested in May 2017 and sentenced in February 2019 to six years in prison on extremism charges that have been condemned by rights groups in Russia and abroad.
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.
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