NEWSWEEK’s Jason Lemon reported on June 19, 2018, that Russia’s response to Washington that the U.S. government has “no moral right” to demand that Russia release religious or political prisoners – including detained Jehovah’s Witnesses. The U.S. State Department responded by issuing a statement calling on Russia to release more than 150 prisoners being held for “religious or political reasons.”
That demand came as a response to Moscow’s rounding up Jehovah’s Witnesses throughout the country.
The US demand also specified the release of Dennis Christensen. Christensen is a Danish Jehovah’s Witness citizen detained for over a year due to his affiliation with the religious group.
Jarrod Lopes, a communications representative based at the New York World Headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses, told NEWSWEEK that at least twenty Witnesses are known to be detained in Russia. Others are known to be under house arrest or forced to sign agreements promising not to leave the area where they reside.
This frustrating situation for all involved – thanks to the crackdown against Jehovah’s Witnesses has drawn the attention of not only the Watchtower but also other religious groups that have policies and beliefs that are not acceptable to the Russian government and the unofficial “state religion” – the Russian Orthodox.