2017-03-29 10:00:00

Court orders Sochi rabbi to leave Russia

Krasnodar, March 29, Interfax -The rabbi of the Sochi city Jewish community Ari Edelkopf, who is a citizen of the United States, has lost his appeal against the Interior Ministry decision to annul his Russian temporary resident permit.

On Tuesday the appellate collegium of the Krasnodar Territory Court upheld Sochi's Central District Court decision rejecting Edelkopf's lawsuit against the Krasnodar Territory police, an Interfax correspondent reported.

"To leave the decision of the Central District Court of the city of Sochi, of January 27, 2017, without change and the appellate complaint without satisfaction," the appellate collegium chairwoman said.

According to the case files, in December of 2016 the Krasnodar Territory police cancelled Edelkopf's temporary resident permit on the ground of "his actions creating a threat to Russia's security." The decision came after the police received a reply to its query from Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) as part of background checks on the rabbi's Russian citizenship application.

During the inquiry Edelkopf's lawyer Mikhail Shkolnik filed petitions to obtain primary documents from the Interior Ministry and the FSB, including correspondence between the two and whether this information constitutes state secret. The territorial court rejected the petitions.

"Both the lower and the appellate courts approached the man's fate formalistically. The case totally lacks any facts and evidence of Edelkopf having carried out some acts against Russia that would pose threat to its security. He has lived in this country for 16 years, his seven children grew up here," the lawyer told Interfax.

"Because the lower court's decision has taken effect, Edelkopf will have to leave Russia immediately or else face deportation," Shkolnik said.

For his part, Boruch Gorin, head of the public relations department of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia (FJCR), who was present at the hearing, told Interfax-Religion that the proceedings lasted 18 minutes, "and those were 18 minutes of pure Kafka."

"No clarification was given. The lawyer attempted to find out from the court what the rabbi is being expelled for and the respondent's side, i.e. the law enforcement agencies' attorneys, stated that they won't say because it is a state secret. It is thus totally unclear why a court hearing should be held. People should just be expelled under the FSB directive without a possibility of clarifying their case in court," Gorin said.

"This is very bad news both for our community and for the country in general, because this is the ground for absolute lawlessness," the FJCR representative said.

"This Kafkaesque reality - we are accusing you but won't say of what - is not just absurd, but it causes extremely sad reflections on the subject of our future, because with such phrasings, not just a foreigner, no Russian citizen can feel safe," Gorin said.

It was reported earlier that Ari Leib Edelkopf was born in Israel in 1978 and has been a U.S. citizen since 1988. In 2015 he obtained a Russian temporary resident permit and since that year has been head of the Sochi city Jewish community. He is married with seven children, all of them Israeli citizens and living in Sochi.

Edelkopf's forebears emigrated from Russia to the U.S. in the 1920s for religious reasons.