Columbia warned over students’ dinner with Ahmadinejad

JTA – September 15, 2011

An Israeli rights group has warned Columbia University of legal repercussions following an invitation to some students for a dinner with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Members of Columbia’s International Relations Council and Association were invited via e-mail to a private meal Sept. 21 with Ahmadinejad, the school’s Spectator newspaper reported. Some 15 students will attend the dinner, which is still tentative, according to the Columbia publication.

Ahmadinejad is coming to New York to participate in the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly next week. His controversial address at Columbia in 2007 embroiled the campus in hot debate over freedom of speech and academic freedom.

The Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center in Tel Aviv sent a letter to Columbia President Lee Bollinger condemning the invitation and warning that it could make the university liable to legal repercussions.

“Hosting Ahmadinejad at a banquet is not merely morally repulsive: it is illegal and likely to render Columbia University and its officers both criminally and civilly liable,” said the letter from the center, which also has an office in New York.

Bollinger was heavily criticized when Columbia hosted Ahmadinejad in ’07. He introduced the Islamic Republic leader with a scathing rebuke of Iran’s human rights record.

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