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Justice Dept. opposes Chabad call for fining Russia over confiscated Judaica

(JTA) — The Chabad-Lubavitch movement asked a U.S. judge to fine Russia for refusing to hand over confiscated Jewish scriptures, but the U.S. Justice Department opposed the move.

According to the Associated Press, Chabad lawyer Seth Gerber last week asked Chief Judge Royce Lamberth of the U.S. District Court in Washington to fine Russia for not transferring tens of thousands of religious books and manuscripts about the group’s core teachings from its state library and military archive.

U.S. Justice Department lawyer Joel McElvain said the U.S. government has made progress, albeit "slow and halting," on the matter. He said that fines would amount to a substantial step backward.

Lamberth ordered the institutions to give up the items in 2010, five years after Chabad sued for their return. Russia has not recognized the authority of the U.S. court and is refusing to give up the artifacts, saying they are important to Russian national heritage.

The report did not say when Lamberth, who made no ruling during last week’s session, is expected to give his decision. 

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