US opposes penalty for Russia over historic books

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WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is opposing a Jewish group’s bid to have civil fines levied against Russia for failing to obey a court order to return its historic books and documents.

In a recent court filing, the Justice Department argued that judicial sanctions against Russia in this case would be contrary to U.S. foreign policy interests and inconsistent with U.S. law.

In question are tens of thousands of religious books and manuscripts, some up to 500 years old, which record the group’s core teachings and traditions.

Lamberth ruled the records are unlawfully possessed by the Russian State Library and the Russian military archive. And in 2010, he ordered the Russian government to turn them over to the U.S. embassy in Moscow or to the group’s representative.

Russia, which doesn’t recognize the authority of the U.S. court, has refused. It says the collection is part of Russia’s national heritage.

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