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.
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.