A nonprofit organization accused of serving as a "front for the Iranian government" donated $100,000 to Columbia University just months before Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made a controversial appearance at the school.
The Times reports that the embattled Alavi Foundation — a group that has long supported educational programs on Islamic and Iranian culture but is now under fire for "illegally providing money and other services" to Iran — made its largest ever donation to the school several months before Ahmadinejad's visit. The organization is facing a lawsuit by federal prosecutors and it is fighting to maintain control of land holdings including a Midtown office building.
Columbia spokesman David M. Stone insisted that the July 2007 grant of $100,000 went towards a course in classical Persian language, which received another $50,000 from the group the following year. "We were as surprised as every other university and nonprofit group that may have received such donations about the recent news reports regarding this foundation,” said Stone, who added that any connection between the donation and the invitation of Ahmadinejad "is false, and does not stand up to rational scrutiny.”