A Russian court on Wednesday sentenced a Jehovah’s Witness to six years in prison for “extremism”, in the first conviction of its kind since a 2017 law that outlawed the religious group.
Danish citizen Dennis Christensen was in court in the southern Russian city of Oryol for the sentencing, spokesman for the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia Yaroslav Sivulskiy told AFP.
“We deeply regret the conviction of Dennis Christensen -- an innocent man who did not commit any real crime,” Sivulskiy said in a statement.
“It is sad that reading the Bible, preaching, and living a moral way of life is again a criminal offence in Russia.”
The Jehovah’s Witnesses, a US-based Christian evangelical movement, will appeal the verdict within 10 days, according to a statement from the organization’s head office.
An AFP photographer outside the courtroom saw Christensen, 46, being led past a mass of supporters by police officers following the verdict.
Rights groups have condemned the trial, with Amnesty International saying it was “emblematic of the grave human rights violations” taking place in Russia.
Armed FSB officers detained Christensen in Oryol in May 2017, shortly after Moscow banned Jehovah’s Witnesses as an extremist organization.