Russian prosecutors raid second Jewish educational institution

(JTA) – For the second time in one month, Russian prosecutors conducted a surprise inspection at a Jewish educational institution.

The latest inspection occurred earlier this month in Novgorod, a city located 335 miles northwest of Moscow, according to Russian Jewish Congress President Yuri Kanner, who spoke of the incident in an interview published last week on the Russian-language, online edition of the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

The Novgorod incident, according to the report, involved a Hebrew class given by the local office of Hesed, a charity with ties to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

According to asianews.it, the inspection occurred on June 1, four days after prosecutors raided a Jewish school in Yekaterinburg, 900 miles east of Moscow, and confiscated some textbooks following complaints that the faculty had incited against members of other faiths.

Students were forced to present identifying documents to representatives of the public prosecutor’s office, who arrived unannounced and without explaining the purpose of the inspection.

Kanner said documents were also seized during the Novgorod inspection, which he characterized as having “a significant psychological impact on the community.” Kanner said the Russian Jewish Congress has not been able to obtain clarifications from Russian authorities on either action.

“It’s difficult to understand or comment on prosecutors’ interest in coming into an organization where people learn the language,” Kanner said. Still, Kanner said he did not think the two inspections were part of “any kind of campaign.”

The inspections in Novgorod and Yekaterinburg coincide with a number of investigations into alleged extremism in Muslim and other faith communities.

A judge in the Ural region near Yekaterinburg ordered new analyses of two Muslim books prosecutors alleged were of an “extremist” nature, forum18.org reported last week.

In February, Russia’s Constitutional Court ruled that freedom of speech is not infringed by outlawing “extremist” material, which the court defined as proclaiming superiority of one religion or belief system over another. The ruling was on a motion concerning the 2011 banning of material from the Chinese spiritual movement Falun Gong.

In May, federal authorities banned two Muslim books, Faith in the Light of the Qur’an and Sunnah and Fortress of the Muslim, which they said were extremist but which the Sova Center, a Russian human rights watchdog, said “contain no signs of extremism.”

The Sova centre listed the banning of these books and the Yekaterinburg Jewish school raid as examples of “misuse of anti-extremism” by authorities.

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