Middle East studies in the News
American University of Beirut Unwittingly Violated U.S. Sanctions
The Daily Star (Lebanon)
The American University of Beirut agreed to pay $700,000 to settle a civil lawsuit after being accused of assisting three organizations linked to Hezbollah, U.S. federal prosecutors said Thursday. "For years, the American University of Beirut accepted grant money from USAID, but failed to take reasonable steps to ensure against providing material support to entities on the Treasury Department's prohibited list," Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon Kim said in the statement to Reuters.
The university also agreed to revise its policies as part of its deal with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan, the statement added.
"With today's settlement, the university is being made to pay a financial penalty for its conduct, and importantly, it has admitted to its conduct and agreed to put proper precautions in place to ensure that it does not happen again," Kim is quoted as saying.
AUB receives funding from the U.S. government through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The agreement resolved a case originally filed under seal by an unnamed complainant.
The U.S. Attorney's Office said the university in the Lebanese capital admitted to training representatives of Al-Nour Radio and Al-Manar TV, media groups that the U.S. Treasury Department lists as branches of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah.
Between 2007 and 2009 the university provided training in workshops to representatives from the media stations, who were allowed to participate among a larger group of journalists, the statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
The $700,000 penalty will be paid to the U.S. government.
For its part, AUB said it reached an agreement with the U.S. Justice Department concerning certifications made by AUB in connection with grant applications submitted to the USAID to support student scholarships. "AUB acknowledges that it provided training to two entities listed on the U.S. Treasury Department's Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) List and listed another SDN-affiliated entity on a student database," AUB said in a statement sent to The Daily Star.
However, AUB rejected claims that its conduct was intentional or reckless, and "it did not admit such conduct as part of the settlement."
The statement added, "AUB values its strong relationship with USAID and the generous support USAID provides for student scholarships. As part of our growing evolution as a major research university, AUB will be conducting additional training of its faculty and staff to ensure compliance with U.S. and Lebanese law."
One of the workshops that came under scrutiny was titled "Citizen/Online Journalism" and provided instruction on how to produce blogs, videos and podcasts, prosecutors said.
Federal prosecutors said the university used its website to connect students with Jihad al-Binaa, another organization that the U.S. Treasury Department has said is linked to Hezbollah. The U.S. has long considered Hezbollah a terrorist organization, in both its military and political capacities. The Saudi-led bloc of six Gulf Arab nations the Gulf Cooperation Council joined the U.S. in this delineation last year, whereas the European Union only lists the military wing of Hezbollah on its terrorist blacklist.
"AUB is pleased to have reached the settlement and looks forward to continuing to provide a world-class education to students of all backgrounds," the AUB statement said.
The university, founded in 1866 by American missionaries, centers its teaching on the American liberal arts tradition. It is considered one of the top universities in Lebanon and the region, ranking 228 in the QS World University Rankings for 2016-2017.Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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