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18 Feb, 2023 14:49

Russia explains request to shut down Jewish NGO

The organization has been mishandling the private data of citizens, the Justice Ministry says
Russia explains request to shut down Jewish NGO

A Moscow court has begun processing a request by the Russian Justice Ministry to close down the Jewish Agency for Israel nonprofit organization, also known as Sokhnut, it was announced on Saturday. 

A hearing was initially scheduled for August of last year but was postponed at the request of the defense, which argued that Sokhnut needed time to correct violations pointed out by the Russian authorities.

The Jewish agency’s lawyers had asked for a second delay, although the judge refused the request and has now heard the positions of both parties.

Representatives of the Justice Ministry stated that Sokhnut, which helps facilitate the repatriation of Jews to Israel, had been collecting the personal data of Russian citizens and placing it on foreign websites, which is banned by Russian law. 

The NGO committed 16 such violations between April 2019 and March 2022, and was issued with fines totaling 735,000 rubles ($9,900) as a result. 

The Justice Ministry considers those breaches to be “systematic” and sufficient enough to seek the shutdown of the organization, representatives explained. They added that the ministry has other complaints about Sokhnut’s operations. 

Lawyers for the NGO argued that a shutdown was an excessively harsh measure, considering the violations. They also said that each breach should be considered separately by the court as it would allow the ministry to indicate “mistakes.”

The presiding judge has ordered a break in the case, with the two sides returning to the courtroom on Tuesday.  

Late last year, Sokhnut announced that a record 70,000 foreign Jews had immigrated to Israel in 2022. The NGO credited its work to encourage Russians and Ukrainians to repatriate amid the conflict between their nations as leading to such a high figure.

The number of Russians making the so-called ‘Aliyah’ last year was 37,364, exceeding the total figure of immigrants for 2021 by almost 9,000, according to the organization’s data.