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 said.
“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 organisation’s head office.
A photographer outside the courtroom saw Christensen, 46, being led past a mass of supporters by police officers following the verdict.
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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 organisation.
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Cameroon crisis: Ambazonia separatists get life sentences
A leader of Cameroon’s separatist movement, Sisiku Ayuk Tabe, and nine of his followers have been given life sentences by a military court in the capital, Yaoundé.
They were convicted of rebellion, among other charges.
Their lawyers accused the judge of bias and withdrew from the proceedings.
The English-speaking separatists argue they are marginalised by the bureaucracy and school system in the majority French-speaking country.
The defendants had been arrested in Nigeria in January 2018 and deported back to Cameroon.
The court session on the verdicts, which started on Monday, went on until 05:30 (04:30 GMT) local time Tuesday morning, reports the BBC’s Leocadio Bongben.
By that time the defence lawyers had already withdrawn from the proceedings but continued to stay in the court as spectators.
Defence barrister Joseph Fru said there were irregularities in the proceedings, including the judge’s biases, but the military court rejected his evidence.
The long list of charges included rebellion, complicity in terrorism, financing terrorism, revolution, insurrection, hostility against the state, propagation of fake news and lack of identification.
The court also ordered the 10 to pay a fine of 250bn CFA francs ($422m; £359m) to the government for civil damages and 12bn CFA francs for court costs.
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