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Scientology Writings Banned as Extremist

Works by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard will be added to the country's list of extremist literature for "undermining the traditional spiritual values of the citizens of the Russian Federation," the Prosecutor General's Office said Wednesday.

The ruling — initiated by transport prosecutors in the Siberian city of Surgut and Khanty-Mansiisk customs officers — is the latest use of the hotly debated law on extremism to target systems of belief that are not traditional in Russia.

Individuals in possession of extremist materials can be jailed for up to 15 days or fined 3,000 rubles ($100). The law also allows for harsher punishment of suspects convicted of other crimes.

Prosecutors said they intercepted 28 individual titles, including books, audio and video recordings by Hubbard that were sent to residents in Surgut from the United States. The materials were sent for study to "psychiatrists, psychologists and sociologists," who determined that they should not be distributed in Russia, the prosecutor's office said in a statement.

A Surgut city court approved the transport prosecutors' request "in full," the statement said.

The ruling opens a new legal front against the Church of Scientology, which won a ruling against Russia at the European Court of Human Rights last year.

Scientology's branches in Surgut and Nizhnekamsk successfully sued the country in October at the Strasbourg-based court for refusing to list them as religious organizations on the grounds that they had not existed in Russia for 15 years.

The court awarded them a combined 20,000 euros ($27,000) in damages and court costs.

Among the works to be banned from distribution in Russia are "The Factors, Admiration & the Renaissance of Beingness" (Lectures 1-18) and "The Unification Congress. Communication! Freedom and Ability" (Lectures 1-16), the statement said.

It was not immediately clear which additional titles were included or when they would officially be added to the list, a process that has taken months in the past.

An e-mailed request for comment to the Los Angeles-based Church of Scientology went unanswered Wednesday evening.

According to the research requested by prosecutors, the seized works contained "ideas justifying violence in general and in particular any means of opposing critics of Scientology," the statement said. "The works have clear as well as hidden calls for social and religious hatred" and call for hindering the work of the state.

Scientology was created by science-fiction author Hubbard in the 1950s. The secretive church has faced regular criticism and litigation from former members, who allege that it is a cult charging massive fees for purported religious services.

Germany has ruled that it is a commercial organization and several other European governments have refused to recognize it as a religion.

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