Cast in Russia as ‘enemy within’, Jehovah’s Witnesses see Soviet history replay

Source: Reuters

BY Andrew Osborn

ORYOL, Russia (Reuters) – 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.

Irina Christensen holds letters of support for her husband outside a court building in Oryol

Irina Christensen, wife of Dennis Christensen, a Jehovah’s Witness accused of extremism, poses for a picture while holding letters of support for her husband outside a court building in the town of Oryol, Russia January 15, 2019. REUTERS/Andrew Osborn

Irina Christensen, wife of Dennis Christensen, a Jehovah’s Witness accused of extremism, poses for a picture while holding letters of support for her husband outside a court building in the town of Oryol, Russia January 15, 2019. REUTERS/Andrew Osborn

Armed police scaled the gates of a compound where the Christian denomination was meeting in Oryol, some 200 miles (320 km) 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.

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