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June 2, 2017 11:43 am

Argentine Officials Focused on Iranian Responsibility for AMIA Atrocity, as New Judge Pursues Alberto Nisman Probe Into Collusion With Tehran

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A memorial outside the AMIA building in Buenos Aires commemorates those murdered on July 18, 1994. Photo: Wikimedia

Iran’s responsibility for the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires is now the focus of renewed efforts by Argentine officials investigating the atrocity, as pressure builds on the country’s former president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, following the announcement of a revived investigation of her government’s role in absolving the Tehran regime of the crime.

Martin Irurzun, the president of Argentina’s Federal Chamber, confirmed on Wednesday that the late special prosecutor Alberto Nisman’s complaint against Kirchner over a 2013 agreement with Iran concerning the AMIA bombing will now be pursued by Federal Judge Claudio Bonadio, who previously investigated Kirchner in 2014 over money laundering and tax evasion allegations.

Eighty-five people were killed and hundreds wounded when a truck loaded with fertilizer and fuel oil rammed into the AMIA building on July 18, 1994. After a decade of botched investigations into the atrocity, the case was assigned to Nisman in 2005. Nisman’s probing of Iran’s involvement resulted in Interpol releasing “Red Notices” for the arrest of six Iranian officials, including former Deputy Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi – but the Kirchner government quashed his efforts through its 2013 “Memorandum of Understanding” with Tehran, which proposed a joint Argentine-Iranian investigation into the AMIA atrocity.

Nisman’s probable murder in January 2015 – the night before he was due to make public a complaint against Kirchner, former foreign minister Hector Timerman, and other officials for colluding with the Iranians – threatened to bury once and for all the investigation into the Iranian connection. However, eighteen months after President Mauricio Macri annulled the Memorandum with Iran, the new developments in the investigation into Nisman’s death could result in a revived push to extradite the Iranian officials responsible for the attack on AMIA.

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As The Algemeiner reported on Tuesday, a forthcoming report from the Gendarmeria, a federal security force, is expected to prove that Nisman was murdered – in direct contradiction to the claim of an earlier investigation, led by Kirchner’s judicial allies, that he committed suicide using a gun procured from an employee. That development was quickly followed by the announcement of Bonadio’s appointment to take over Nisman’s original complaint.

Among the evidence amassed by Nisman that is now in Bonadio’s hands is a notorious phone call that took place in 2012 between Timerman and Guillermo Borger, a leader of the Argentine Jewish community. In that call, Timerman confirmed to Borger that Iran was responsible for the bombing, before chiding him for not accepting the practical impossibility of extraditing the Iranian suspects for trial.

Bonadio “is no one’s idea of a saint, but he has a mind of his own and is quite fearless,” Eamonn MacDonagh – an analyst of Argentine politics who has written widely on the Nisman case – told The Algemeiner. His previous investigations into Kirchner’s affairs mean “he is also a hate figure for the Kirchner family,” MacDonagh said.

Toby Dershowitz – senior vice president at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) think-tank, who worked with Nisman – urged in an email to The Algemeiner that Argentina use “this opportunity to get back on track.”

“Argentina needs to hold accountable Nisman’s killer and those behind his murder, no matter the political consequences. Moreover, those who Nisman found to be involved in the AMIA bombing and who have Interpol ‘Red Notices’ for their roles, should not be let off the hook,” Dershowitz said.

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