Former Argentine President Cristina Kirchner Defends Secret Pact With Iran at Inquiry Into AMIA Bombing Cover-Up
Argentina’s embattled former president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, struck a defiant pose in a Buenos Aires courtroom on Thursday as she defended a secret pact negotiated by her government with the Iranian regime in 2011.
Kirchner was appearing before a federal inquiry into the allegation of Alberto Nisman — the Argentine prosecutor who was murdered in January 2015 — that by signing the deal, the Kirchner government exonerated Iran of its responsibility for the July 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires. The bombing — in which 85 people were killed and hundreds more were wounded — remains one of the worst single acts of terrorism since the Second World War.
Kirchner’s appearance at the court was the latest in a series of testimonies given by key ministers and political aides from her previous administration — including her foreign minister, Hector Timerman, who has been accused of finalizing the agreement at a January 2011 meeting with his Iranian counterpart in in the Syrian city of Aleppo that was personally hosted by President Bashar al-Assad. Last week, former spy Ramon Bogado told the inquiry that the pact included provisions for the transfer of technology and expertise from Argentina’s domestic nuclear program to the Tehran regime.
Reporters inside the court commented that Kirchner was ill at ease during her appearance, reading from a prepared statement and declining to answer questions. Early on during the proceedings, the former president refused the glass of water provided by the court, instructing the ushers that its replacement “has to be thick glass.”
In her statement, Kirchner pointed out that the deal had been endorsed by Argentina’s Congress in 2013 — neglecting to add that it was then declared unconstitutional by a federal court the following year. Arguing that Argentina’s judiciary had no constitutional right to treat a foreign policy decision as a criminal investigation, Kirchner asserted that efforts to extradite the five remaining Iranian suspects in the AMIA bombing for trial in Argentina had reached an impasse by 2011. Iran had remained steadfast in its refusal to extradite the suspects and Argentina does not conduct trials in absentia, she said.
Kirchner presented the ensuing pact with Iran as “the diplomatic and peaceful solution by which both countries opted to resolve the dispute and allow the Argentine judicial branch to carry out the investigations required for the necessary progress of the (AMIA) case.”
The insinuation by Kirchner that the Iranians would have cooperated with the AMIA bombing investigators was slammed as a “nonsensical falsehood” by a leading commentator on the case, which has proceeded for over twenty years without securing a single conviction.
“Kirchner is saying that the pact would have allowed Alberto Nisman to travel to Tehran and carry out his investigation there,” Argentine politics expert Eamonn MacDonagh told The Algemeiner on Thursday. “Even if she was acting with the best will in the world, how on earth was Nisman supposed to go to Iran, given that the same regime threatened many times to assassinate him?”
One of those occasions, MacDonagh pointed out, took place in 2007, when Nisman was threatened in person by Iranian delegates at a conference of Interpol, the international law enforcement agency, which issued “red notices” for the original six suspects in the AMIA bombing.
Kirchner dismissed the charge that she had knowingly colluded in a cover-up with Iran as “absurd and insulting.” She also launched an angry verbal attack on the veteran federal judge in charge of the inquiry, Claudio Bonadio, saying that he too had misled the AMIA investigation at the time when Nisman was running it.
Outside the court, Kirchner declared to reporters that “the only treason here is the use of the judiciary to persecute opponents” — a reference to the growing legal pressures upon her and her former colleagues as Argentine President Mauricio Macri, fresh from an overwhelming victory in Argentina’s midterms last week, continues with his crackdown on the widespread corruption that prevailed during the Kirchner years.
Kirchner, who won election to Argentina’s Senate in the October 23 midterm elections, may still face moves to prevent her from being sworn in on December 10, thereby losing any immunity from prosecution. On Wednesday, a member of Argentina’s Congress who was one of Kirchner’s most trusted ministers, Julio De Vido, was arrested after being stripped of his immunity. De Vido will now face corruption charges involving the misuse of public funds to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.