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November 7, 2017 6:01 pm

Rutgers University Defends Decision to Employ Ex-Assad Regime Spokesman, Calling Him Expert in International Law

avatar by Shiri Moshe

The College Avenue campus of Rutgers University–New Brunswick. Photo: TJ DeGroat.

Rutgers University has defended its decision to employ a former spokesperson for the Syrian government, who represented the regime of President Bashar al-Assad as it was accused of massacring, starving, and torturing its own citizens.

Rutgers told The Algemeiner on Tuesday that Mazen Adi, who joined its Political Science Department as a part-time lecturer in 2015, was hired due to “his expertise in international law and diplomacy, and other fields.”

Prior to working at New Jersey’s largest publicly-funded research university, Adi represented the Assad regime for 16 years, The Algemeiner first reported on Sunday. He most recently served from 2007 to 2014 as a spokesperson and legal adviser for the Syrian delegation at the United Nations in New York City, where his government has been routinely condemned for gross violations of international law.

Since the onset of the Syrian conflict in 2011, which has left an estimated 465,000 people dead or missing, the United States, European governments, and international observers have charged the Assad regime and its allies with perpetrating multiple war crimes, including industrial-scale torture, mass executions, and chemical weapons attacks.

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While in Turtle Bay, Adi also joined his delegation in taking aim at Israel — claiming it buried enemy soldiers alive and alleging, according to a translation by a UN interpreter, that “international gangs led by some Israeli officials are now trafficking children’s organs.” Israeli officials have dismissed charges the country participates in the illicit organ trade, saying they amount to a modern-day blood libel.

When confronted with this record, Rutgers told The Algemeiner in a statement that its “faculty members enjoy the same freedoms of speech and expression as any other individual in this country.”

“Rutgers will not defend the content of every opinion expressed by every member of our academic community, but the University will defend their rights to academic freedom and to speak freely,” it added.

The university also said that contributions from the New York-based Alavi Foundation — a charity that a federal jury determined in June was controlled by Iran, the Assad regime’s main sponsor — played no part in Adi’s employment.

The New York Post first reported in 2009 that Rutgers received $351,600 for its Persian language program between 2005 and 2007 from the foundation. According to its own records, Alavi gave Rutgers $453,600 between 1985 and 2014 — a period when it granted hundreds of thousands of dollars to multiple other North American universities, including Harvard, Columbia, and McGill.

The monitoring group UN Watch called on Rutgers on Monday to fire Adi, who will be teaching a class on international criminal law and anti-corruption in spring 2018, “on grounds that as a Syrian diplomat and legal advisor he justified the war crimes of the genocidal Assad regime.”

“While serving as a Syrian delegate and legal advisor at the UN, Mr. Adi systematically acted as an apologist for the mass murder committed by the Assad regime against his own people, helping Syria win impunity at the UN to conduct continued war crimes,” UN Watch said.

The group also launched a petition urging Rutgers to dismiss Adi, which had gained over 400 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon.

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