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February 16, 2018 2:15 pm

Argentina Begins Trials, Sentencing of Senior Officials Who Corrupted Investigations Into Iranian Bombing of AMIA Jewish Center

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A display in Buenos Aires of pictures and names of victims of the 1994 AMIA bombing, in which 85 people died and hundreds more were wounded. Photo: Reuters/Marcos Brindicci.

More than twenty years of corrupted attempts to bring to justice the Iranian suspects in the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires came into sharp focus this week, as courts in Argentina moved ahead with prosecutions of two previous administrations for their role in covering up Tehran’s responsibility for the atrocity.

On Thursday, Judge Claudio Bonadio – who has been investigating the claim that the former government of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner exonerated the Iranians over the AMIA bombing through a 2013 pact between the two countries – said that he was now passing several of the accused on for trial. Bonadio’s inquiry was based on the original complaint against Kirchner and her colleagues drafted by the late federal prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who was found murdered in his Buenos Aires apartment on January 18, 2015. At the time, Nisman accused the government of having “made an alliance with the terrorists.”

Among those being sent for trial are Carlos Zannini – a former aide to Kirchner who has been described as one of her most trusted confidantes – and the Argentine Islamist leader Jorge “Yussuf” Khalil, who retains close ties with the Iranian regime. Although both Kirchner and her former Foreign Minister Hector Timerman have also been indicted, Kirchner, who is now a senator, currently has immunity from prosecution, while Timerman was released from house arrest this month in order to receive medical treatment in the US for cancer.

A panel of judges still needs to be appointed to oversee the trial, which could begin before the end of the year if the selection of the judges runs smoothly.

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In a related development, Argentina’s Ministry of Justice on Thursday recommended stiff sentences for a group of senior political and judicial figures, including former President Carlos Menem, who were convicted on corruption charges following the acquittal in September 2004 of five men accused of having assisted the AMIA bombing.

The ministry requested that Menem be sentenced to six years in prison. The former judge Juan Jose Galeano, who authorized that one of the trial defendants be paid $400,000 in return for his testimony, faces an eight year sentence.

Toby Dershowitz – a Senior Vice President at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies who has written extensively on the AMIA case – welcomed the latest developments in Argentina.

“Argentina deserves a system that rewards justice and transparency and holds accountable those who attempt to cover up terrorist activity,” Dershowitz told The Algemeiner. “While there is more to be done, developments this week are an important step forward in that process.”

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