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Trial Of Jehovah’s Witness Adjourned In Russia

A preliminary hearing into a criminal case against Jehovah's Witness Dennis Christensen, a 46-year old Danish citizen charged with extremism, was adjourned shortly after resuming in Russia's central city of Oryol.

Judge Aleksei Rudnev adjourned the hearing on April 3 after the defendant asked for additional time to get acquainted with all the materials in the case, including video and audio.

Christensen was arrested in May 2017 and has been in pretrial detention since then.

If convicted, he may face up to 10 years in prison.

Jehovah's Witnesses have long been viewed with suspicion in Russia for their positions on military service, voting, and government authority in general.

Freedom of religion is formally guaranteed in Russia but legislation sets out Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism as the country's four traditional religions, and smaller denominations frequently face discrimination.

In April 2017, the Supreme Court labeled the Jehovah's Witnesses an extremist organization, ordering the seizure of its property in Russia and effectively banning worshipers from the country.

Since then, there have been a growing number of reports of worshipers being targeted for harassment.

Russia's Memorial human rights center recognized Christensen as a political prisoner in July 2017.

Human Rights Watch has urged Russian authorities to release Christensen, saying that he was exercising his right to practice his religion.

With reporting by
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