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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Nationalists Turn to City Court

A group of nationalists has asked a Moscow court to order an investigation of Jewish leaders over an ancient text that the nationalists say incites hatred, Interfax reported Tuesday.

The request was the latest move in a months-long campaign by the group to ban Jewish organizations in Russia, an effort that has raised fears of a resurgence of anti-Semitism and questions about the government's commitment to fighting racism.

Interfax reported that members of the group asked the Basmanny District Court to order the Prosecutor General's Office to investigate Jewish leaders whom they accuse of imposing the principles of an ancient Jewish religious text. The group claims the text, a summary of religious laws called Kitsur Shulhan Arukh, foments hatred.

The appeal came three weeks after Moscow prosecutors dropped an investigation into whether a Russian translation of the text incites ethnic and religious hatred.

Interfax quoted one of the authors of the request as saying that 15,000 people have voiced support for banning Jewish religious organizations in Russia. Mikhail Nazarov, a historian and writer, said government and media officials who "support the principles" of the text should resign, Interfax reported.

Nazarov and other authors could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Basmanny District Court declined to comment or confirm that it had received the request. The Prosecutor General's Office said that it took at least several days for such appeals to be considered and, if approved, to reach the prosecutor's office.

The campaign emerged in January, when 19 lawmakers signed a letter that accused Jews of fomenting ethnic and religious hatred, citing a Russian translation of Kitsur Shulhan Arukh. The letter asked prosecutors to conduct an investigation aimed at outlawing Jewish organizations.

The letter was withdrawn amid a public outcry ahead of President Vladimir Putin's visit to Auschwitz for ceremonies commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Nazi death camp's liberation.

In May, Moscow prosecutors ruled that a criminal case was not warranted because the text did not inspire hatred. Prosecutors later opened another investigation meant to review the ruling, but dropped it in late June amid criticism from Jewish leaders who called the probe anti-Semitic.

Jewish leaders praised that decision but said the Russian government was not doing enough to combat anti-Semitism.

"If the state -- the judicial authorities -- does not place barriers to such actions, they will continue on a larger and larger scale," said Borukh Gorin, spokesman for the Federation of Jewish Communities in Russia.

Gorin criticized authorities for rejecting a request from Jewish and human rights groups to prosecute the authors of the initial letter.

He said the government should come down harder on "the propagandists of xenophobia, nationalism and Nazism."