MOSCOW, July 2 (RAPSI) - Russia's Ministry of Culture and the State Library have filed a lawsuit with the Moscow Commercial Court against the US and its Congressional Library over the disputed Rebbe Schneerson book collection, a lawyer said on Tuesday.
They are suing not only the library but also the United States as a country, Yury Pilipenko, managing partner of the YUST law firm, who is representing the Ministry of Culture in court, told RAPSI.
The plaintiffs have asked the court to order the Congressional Library to return seven books from the collection of rare Judaist books, also known as the Schneerson Collection. The books, now part of the Russian State Library's Oriental Literature Center, have been on loan to Washington since 1994 as an international interlibrary loan.
"The Ministry of Culture, acting as the owner of these nationally important books on behalf of the state, was compelled to take the issue to court after the Congressional Library failed to return them," a statement by the ministry reads. The US library made "no response" to the Russian library's demands.
"The United States as a country is a co-defendant in the case," Pilippenko said. "There are valid legal grounds to sue the country." In particular, this has to do with the fact that the books were lent to a state institution and not a private company. "It is difficult to say how such a lawsuit would fare, but we do not see any serious problems that would prevent a positive ruling from being enforced," he added.
Lubavitcher Rebbe Yosef Yitzchok Schneerson was forced to leave the Soviet Union in 1927. He took his collection with him to Latvia and Poland, where he left the books after Poland was attacked by Nazi Germany. The collection was taken to Germany and confiscated by the Red Army in 1945. Schneerson died in 1950 without leaving instructions regarding the collection.
On January 16, the US District Court for the District of Columbia ordered Russia to pay fines of $50,000 per day until it returns the books and manuscripts to America's Hasidic community.
Russia's Foreign Ministry described the ruling as unlawful provocation.