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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 newsorel.ru
Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny

Russian opposition politician and Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny plans to establish a new political party, the lawyer of his Anticorruption Foundation, Ivan Zhdanov, says.

Zhdanov posted on Twitter on April 3 an official letter by the Justice Ministry dated March 29 confirming that the documents had been filed with the ministry to hold the founding congress of a new political party titled Rabocheye Nazvaniye, which can be translated as either Working Name or Provisional Title.

Zhdanov wrote on Twitter that the founding congress of the new party will be held on May 19, adding that "since the [party's] name was taken from us, the party's name will be provisional until the congress."

The Justice Ministry said last month that Navalny's former supporter, Vitaly Serukanov, had registered a new party, called Party of Progress. In the past, the ministry refused six times to register Navalny's party under that name.

Navalny, a vocal foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin who has organized large street protests on several occasions and published a series of reports alleging corruption in Russia's ruling elite, was barred from the March presidential race due to a conviction on financial-crimes charges he contends were fabricated by the Kremlin to sideline him.

With reporting by Novaya Gazeta

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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