Russian court upholds guilty verdict for Jehovah's Witness

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MOSCOW (AP) — A court in Russia has ruled that a Danish Jehovah's Witness must stay in prison for the next six years.

The court in western Russia on Thursday turned down Dennis Christensen's appeal against February's verdict that found him guilty of participating in the activities of an extremist organization.

Amnesty International called the ruling "an affront to the rights of freedom of religion and association."

Russia in recent years has used its vaguely worded extremism laws to go after dissenters, opposition activists and most recently religious minorities. Russia officially banned the Jehovah's Witnesses in 2017 and declared the religious group an extremist organization.

Nearly 200 Jehovah's Witnesses are facing criminal charges, including 28 people who are kept in pretrial detention and under house arrest.

Paul Gilles, a spokesman for the Jehovah's Witnesses world headquarters in the United States, said applications for Christensen's case and the 2017 ban have been filed with the European Court of Human Rights.

"We know our fellow believers in Russia will remain resolute in the face of persecution as Jehovah's Witnesses did in Soviet times," he said.

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