It linked academics to the “Muslim Brotherhood”, A lawsuit against an American university in the case of spreading misleading information in a campaign that the UAE is accused of financing It linked academics to the “Muslim Brotherhood”, A lawsuit against an American university in the case of spreading misleading information in a campaign that the UAE is accused of financing

It linked academics to the “Muslim Brotherhood”, A lawsuit against an American university in the case of spreading misleading information in a campaign that the UAE is accused of financing

It linked academics to the “Muslim Brotherhood”, A lawsuit against an American university in the case of spreading misleading information in a campaign that the UAE is accused of financing

Washington: A political science teacher filed a lawsuit against the prestigious George Washington University in the United States, accusing it of participating in a disinformation campaign that he says was funded by the UAE, during which false information was published linking academics to the Muslim Brotherhood .

Austrian university professor Farid Hafez filed a lawsuit against George Washington University and Lorenzo Vidino, director of the institution's extremism program, demanding compensation amounting to $10 million.

This second case to reach American courts in this regard this year highlights what researchers call the lucrative “paid disinformation” industry, which is based on spreading false information for the purpose of influence, on behalf of wealthy clients who pay huge sums of money in exchange for it.

Foreign governments have long been accused of buying their influence through donations to American universities or other research institutions. But Hafez went further, accusing an ancient university of harming the reputation of some people on behalf of a state.

The lawsuit, filed in a Washington court, alleges that George Washington University and Vidino “engaged in a hidden conspiracy to defraud authorities, academia, and the fourth estate,” meaning the press, while “presenting themselves as independent and objective players in academia.”

The lawsuit also accuses Alp Services, a private company based in Geneva, of paying money on behalf of the UAE to journalists and academics, including Vidino, to distort the image of critics of the wealthy Gulf state.

Vidino is accused of exploiting his position at the university to target academics such as Hafez, as well as companies and organizations, by publishing false reports linking them to the Muslim Brotherhood, which the UAE classifies as a terrorist organization.

The lawsuit stated, “Vedino was a hired person who sold unverified rumors under the guise of academic objectivity and knowledge with the aim of destroying people and institutions.”

 “A ruined life” 

Hafez, a professor of political science at Williams College in Massachusetts, was arrested in 2020 as part of a campaign against Muslim people and companies in Austria.

However, no charges were brought against any of those arrested, and the judiciary declared in 2021 that the operation was illegal.

Hafez believed that he was arrested because of a report submitted by Vidino.

A contractual agreement seen by Agence France-Presse shows that Vidino received money in exchange for providing “suggestions” to Alp, which used it as part of a disinformation operation on behalf of the UAE.

Hafez's lawyer, David Schwarz, told AFP, "My client's life was destroyed due to activities carried out against him by George Washington University, Vidino, and the Alp company."

He added that his client is demanding $10 million in compensation.

Neither the university nor Vidino responded to AFP's requests for comment on the case.

“Even if the university and the program were not aware of actions taken in secret, the position’s prestige may have added credibility to the disinformation,” said Christian Coates Ulrichsen, a researcher specializing in Middle East issues at the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University in Houston.

This is not the first case of its kind to affect the UAE. In January, Hazem Nada, an Italian-American citizen, accused the Gulf state of spreading misleading information through Alp Services that caused his raw materials trading company, Lord Energy, to go bankrupt.

Hafez's case highlights the potential influence of foreign funds on American universities, as Benjamin Freeman, a specialist in these issues at the Quincy Institute, explained to AFP.

Freeman considered that “American universities that receive millions or even hundreds of millions from authoritarian regimes will be less inclined to criticize these regimes.”

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