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MOSCOW — Russian prosecutors said Wednesday that dozens of texts and recordings by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard had been ruled "extremist" and would be banned in Russia.
"Materials on Scientology by Ron Hubbard have been found extremist and will be banned from distribution in Russia," the Russian prosecutor general's office said in a statement.
The ban relates to 28 books and audio-video discs containing lectures by Hubbard, a US science fiction author who founded Scientology in 1954, the statement said.
The ruling was the latest blow to the Church of Scientology, an organisation that some countries treat as a legitimate faith but that others consider a cult designed to trick members out of large sums of money.
The ban on the Scientology materials was imposed by a court in the city of Surgut in eastern Siberia, which decided they should be added to a list of literature banned in Russia for extremist content, the statement said.
The list of extremist literature includes numerous texts by Islamist groups and Russian ultranationalists, as well as some brochures distributed by Jehovah's Witnesses.
Local transport prosecutors in Surgut confiscated the Scientology materials after they were mailed there from the United States, then asked the court to declare them extremist, the statement said.
The materials contained calls "to commit crimes motivated by ideological and religious hatred" and "ideas justifying violence in general and in particular any methods of resistance against critics of Scientology," it said.
"This is some kind of mistake or misunderstanding," Yury Maksimov, a Moscow-based spokesman for the Church of Scientology, told AFP. "The materials cited are distributed all over the world."
The Church of Scientology, which says it is seeking a world free of "war, crime and insanity" and counts Hollywood stars Tom Cruise and John Travolta among its members, won the status of a religion in the United States in 1993.
But it is regarded with suspicion in many European countries, including France, Germany, Belgium and Greece, where opponents accuse it of manipulating members for financial ends.
It has repeatedly encountered problems with Russian officials. Russia has twice been fined by the European Court of Human Rights for refusing to register Scientology churches as religious organisations.
I love you, Russia. Though, maybe you could stop persecuting some of the other folks mentioned in the article and focus solely on Scientology.