Beirut – The American University of Beirut (AUB) has agreed to pay $700,000 to settle a civil lawsuit over charges it assisted three organizations linked to “Hezbollah,” which is designated as a terrorist group by the US.
The university, which is a recipient of US government aid, announced in a statement on Friday that its conduct had been neither “knowing, intentional or reckless.”
“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 statement said, a copy of which was obtained by Asharq Al-Awsat.
“The university is committed to providing the best education for students in Lebanon and abroad. It is always committed to remaining loyal to its mission through teaching a diverse society of those seeking to achieve excellence, without discrimination based on race, creed, religion, or nationality.”
As part of its deal with the US Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, a party to the lawsuit, the university also agreed to revise its policies, federal prosecutors said in a statement on Thursday.
The agreement resolved a case originally filed under seal by an unnamed complainant.
AUB receives funding from the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
Acting Manhattan US Attorney Joon Kim said in the statement: “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.”
The US Attorney’s Office said the university admitted to training representatives of al-Nour Radio and al-Manar TV, media groups that the US Treasury Department lists as branches of the Iranian-backed “Hezbollah”.
Between 2007 and 2009 the university provided the training in workshops to representatives from al-Nour and al-Manar, who were allowed to participate among a larger group of journalists, a statement from the US Attorney’s Office said.
For instance, one workshop 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 US Treasury Department has said is linked to “Hezbollah”.
“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 said in a statement.
The $700,000 penalty levied on the university will be paid to the US government.
AUB announced that it will provide its employees and staff with additional training to ensure that they abide by American and Lebanese laws.