2017-02-10 18:47:00

Sochi rabbi at risk of deportation intends to acquire Russian citizenship

Sochi, February 10, Interfax - Rabbi Ari Edelkopf of the Sochi Jewish community, whose temporary residence permit in Russia has been cancelled, is planning to challenge this ruling all the way to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and intends to pursue obtaining Russian citizenship, Edelkopf's lawyer Mikhail Shkolnik said.

"I hope that everything will work out positively in [the Krasnodar] territorial court. The rabbi has a right to use the domestic remedies, to apply to a court of appeals of the Krasnodar Territory and remain in Russia at the same time," Shkolnik told Interfax on Friday.

If the issue does not receive a positive resolution in a second instance court, the rabbi intends to apply to a cassation instance of the Russian Supreme Court and the ECHR, the lawyer said.

"The rabbi expected to obtain a permanent resident card in Russia legally. But as soon as he had applied for new status, his temporary residence permit was cancelled at once. He also intended to acquire Russian citizenship," the lawyer said.

Ari Leib Edelkopf was born in Israel in 1978 and has been a citizen of the United States since 1988. He obtained a temporary residence permit in Russia in 2015. He has been serving as the head of Sochi's Jewish community. He has a wife, who was born in 1982, and seven children, all of whom are also Israeli citizens with a temporary residence permit in Russia. They reside in Sochi.

Shkolnik said that Edelkopf's parents had left Russia for the U.S. on religious grounds in the 1920s.

Having American citizenship, the rabbi had resided in Israel from 1988 to 2015 and came to Russia to "establish his historical ties and live like a law-abiding citizen with his family, in which there are seven children," he said.

Meanwhile, on December 7, 2016, the Russian Federal Security Service's (FSB) department for the Krasnodar Territory sent a letter to the local Interior Ministry department saying that "Ari Edelkopf's actions pose a threat to Russia's security."

On December 16, 2016, the Russian Interior Ministry ordered that the temporary residence permits of Edelkopf, his wife Chana and their seven children be canceled. In addition, they were notified about their impending deportation.

On January 29, a first instance court in Sochi rejected the rabbi's motion against the cancellation of the temporary residence permits.

Edelkopf is currently drawing up an appeal to the Krasnodar territorial court.

Regarding the rabbi's attempt to challenge the cancellation of his temporary residence permit in a court, his lawyer said that "the courts have so far been unable to make the FSB and the Interior Ministry provide definitive proof that both the rabbi and his wife indeed constitute a threat to Russia's security."

"The rabbi, naturally, cannot refute these facts, because if the proof is not presented before the court, one should assume it doesn't exist," Shkolnik said.

At the same time, he said, "the courts are oriented toward protecting the state, and this is why they are quite afraid to deliver a just ruling."

"We expect the superior instances to pay attention to this case and compel the government bodies to provide some proof that they [the rabbi and his wife] are indeed committing some illegal acts and posing a threat to Russia's security. And then, when this proof is provided, we will be able to evaluate it," Shkolnik said.