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December 12, 2017 3:47 pm

Argentine Judge Orders Ex-Foreign Minister at Heart of AMIA Bombing Cover-Up to Remain Under House Arrest

avatar by Ben Cohen

Former Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman in 2015. Photo: Reuters / Marcos Brindicci.

An Argentine judge has denied a request to release former Foreign Minister Hector Timerman from a preventative detention order imposed on him last week, following a federal inquiry into the 2013 pact between Argentina and Iran that announced a joint “truth commission” to investigate the July 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires.

The 2013 deal — which opponents at time charged was meant to exonerate Iran of its responsibility for the attack — was deemed illegal and voided shortly after the election of Argentine President Mauricio Macri in December 2015.

Judge Claudio Bonadio — the head of the inquiry into the collusion between Argentina and Iran — denied Timerman’s request on Tuesday, after hearing the objections of the federal prosecutor in the case, Eduardo Taiano.

Taiano clarified at the same time he would not oppose visits abroad for Timerman to receive medical treatment for the cancer he suffers from, if these were authorized by Bonadio.

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The setback for Timerman came just days after Bonadio asked Argentina’s Senate to strip former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of her immunity from prosecution over her alleged role in the AMIA cover-up with Iran. If tried and convicted on charges of treason, Kirchner, Timerman and several other Argentine leaders and officials could face maximum prison sentences of 25 years.

Kirchner’s supporters have meanwhile been attempting through the media to discredit Alberto Nisman — the federal prosecutor investigating Iran’s role in the AMIA bombing who was found murdered in his Buenos Aires apartment in January 2015. Judge Bonadio’s probe which culminated last week was based on Nisman’s original complaint against Kirchner’s government for its secret collusion with the Iranians.

The pro-Kirchner tabloid El Destape posted on Tuesday what is described as unheard audio of Nisman speaking in March 2011, in which the former prosecutor said he had “no doubt” that the allegation that the Kirchner government’s was trying to close down the AMIA investigation at Iran’s behest was “absolutely false.” Nisman was recorded as saying that this allegation, made the previous month by the journalist Pepe Eliaschev, was “without logic” because under Argentina’s constitution, the powers of the executive to intervene in judicial affairs are highly restricted.

But nowhere in the recording did Nisman mention Kirchner or her associates by name, or suggest that they were personally encouraging his investigation. Moreover, the recording makes clear that Nisman was deeply aware of Iranian attempts to resolve the AMIA stand-off through a “political solution.”

In one passage, Nisman was heard saying that officials from Interpol — the global law enforcement agencies which in 2007 issued six “Red Notices” for the Iranian and Hezbollah planners of the AMIA bombing  — had advised him that the Iranians were hoping that Kirchner would issue a statement in tandem with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei announcing an end to the two countries’ dispute over the AMIA issue. That conflict became particularly pronounced during the 2003-07 office of Kirchner’s late husband, former President Nestor Kirchner.

Nisman is then heard saying that he emphasized the separation of powers that exists in Argentina to his Interpol colleagues. “I explained…this is an independent investigation unrelated to the executive power,” he said on the recording.

Critically, it was not until 2013 — two years after these comments were recorded — that the memorandum reached between Kirchner’s government and the Iranians became public. The January 2015 murder of Nisman, and the subsequent failed efforts of Kirchner and her judicial allies to portray his death as a suicide, have all fueled speculation in Argentina that his killing was ordered from within her office.

Nonetheless, El Destape presented the 2011 recording as incontrovertible evidence that Nisman had already “dismissed the basis of his complaint against former President Kirchner.”

Eamonn MacDonagh — an expert on the AMIA case — noted that the story had quickly spread from El Destape to other pro-Kirchner news sites and social media feeds.

“There is really nothing to think about here,” MacDonagh told The Algemeiner on Tuesday. “This recording is from March 2011, when there was nothing to go on except Pepe Eliaschev’s story that a dirty deal had been cooked up with the Iranians.”

MacDonagh added that the story avoided another important point of context. “Former President Nestor Kirchner, who was something of a mentor to Nisman and who pursued a policy of integrity on AMIA, had only died five months before Nisman made those comments,” he said. “Nothing more on this matter was published until the memorandum with Iran was released in January 2013.”


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