06/05/2015, 00.00
RUSSIA
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Russia, Jewish texts with "extremist content" confiscated from a school

by Nina Achmatova
Jewish 'Ohr Avner' High School, already threatened with closure last year for administrative violations, is under investigation. Prosecutors office also focusing on the Novgorod community, where authorities carried out surprise inspections of Hebrew study centers.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The Yekaterinburg prosecutor's office, has confiscated a number of Jewish sacred texts (Tanakh), from a Jewish high school including the Torah, because deemed to contain extremist content.

Meduza news website reported the news, quoting a Jewish community activist who spoke with Kursor newspaper. The activist points out that the books were confiscated at the end of Mays and results of the investigation have yet to be released.

A year ago, the same school - linked to the Jewish 'Ohr Avner' center - had been under threat of closure, after an inspection launched by the local prosecutor together with Rosobrnadzor, the federal agency that monitors education.

The authorities then had registered a number of violations, including failure to comply with national education standards. Earlier, a court in Yekaterinburg had decided that the school had to pay for many years of rent arrears. The school maintains that they have the right to use the property for free because they had undertaken renovations of the building.

According to the Newsru website, the authorities have decided "turn from administrative violations to ideological issues", with the accusations of extremism. "None of the books confiscated are on the federal list of books banned for extremism", denounced a school administrator to the site Politsovet, who believes the sacred texts are not under inspection rather some study manuals.

So far the Prosecutor of the Sverdlovsk region, which includes Ekaterinburg, has declined to comment on the reports.

In 2013, the Commission for Inter-Ethnic Relations and Freedom of Conscience at the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation discussed a proposal to be sent to the Russian Prosecutor General's Office to improve controls on extremist religious literature.

The same proposal also suggested "protecting" the sacred texts of traditional religions from such controls. Experts are concerned that, during inspections, there are no consultations with religious scholars and religious communities. As a result it is impossible to adequately assess, on the basis of language and of modern legal thought, texts written many years ago and with specific religious significance.

The prosecution’s investigation of the Jewish community has also focused on the 'Hesed' center in Novgorod, where every Sunday members of the Jewish community of the city meet to study Hebrew. On June 1, the participants in the meeting were forced to present their ID  to representatives of the public prosecutor, who arrived unannounced on-site and without explanations for an inspection.

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