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Helsinki Commission Leaders to President Putin: “The Books Are Overdue”

WASHINGTON – United States Helsinki Commission leaders have written to Russian President Vladimir Putin asking that he take every appropriate measure to secure the return of the Schneerson Collection of sacred Jewish books and manuscripts to the Lubavitch Chasidic community to whom a Russian court awarded the collection almost fourteen years ago.

The collection, which was seized by the Soviet Government in the 1920s, is currently held by the Russian State Library and the Russian State Military Archive.

The letter was signed by Helsinki Commission Chairman Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS), Co-Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), Ranking Member Senator Christopher J. Dodd (D-CT) and Ranking Member Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD).

The Commissioners note that in November 1991, the Russian Federation Arbitration Court ordered the collection returned to the Lubavitch community. “However,” the letter continues, “government officials responsible for carrying out the court’s decision refused to do so and the Russian State Duma subsequently sought to annul the court’s decision, calling into question the integrity of the rule of law in Russia.”

“Justice delayed is justice denied,” concluded the Commissioners, who promised to raise the issue of the Schneerson collection at every appropriate opportunity and venue.

Last month, the United States Senate sent a letter signed by all 100 Senators requesting President Putin to assist in returning the collection. A similar letter, signed by all 100 Senators, was sent to Russian President Boris Yeltsin in 1992.

The February 22, 2005 Helsinki Commission letter is available on the Commission’s web site.

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