Former Argentine President Cristina Kirchner Facing Potential Trials Over Both Iranian AMIA Bombing Cover-Up and Murder of Investigator Alberto Nisman
Former Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is facing a potential double trial, as the latest twist in the investigation of the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires left the legal immunity that she is now entitled to as a member of the Senate looking more vulnerable.
Federal Judge Claudio Bonadio ruled on Monday that Kirchner, ex-foreign minister Héctor Timerman, and ten other close aides will face trial over a 2013 pact with Iran that whitewashed Tehran’s responsibility for the AMIA bombing — one of the worst-ever terrorist atrocities in Latin America, in which 85 people died and hundreds more were wounded.
The AMIA case has yet to produce a single conviction, despite an intervening history of more than twenty years that witnessed a corrupted first trial, a murdered federal prosecutor, and alleged collusion with Iran at the highest levels of the Argentine government.
Bonadio’s 26-page ruling noted that during the Kirchner administration, “secret and official negotiations” were held between senior Argentine and Iranian representatives “that culminated in the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding” — the 2013 pact that was voided following current President Maurico Macri’s election victory in 2015. Bonadio stated Kirchner and her colleagues had agreed to end the pursuit — via Interpol, the international law enforcement agency — of the six Iranians wanted in connection with the AMIA bombing, “to the detriment of justice, the victims and punishment of the accused.”
Bonadio’s investigation into the Iran pact was based on the initial complaint against Kirchner and her colleagues filed by Alberto Nisman, the AMIA investigation federal prosecutor found murdered in his Buenos Aires apartment in January 2015 — and very possibly the subject of a second AMIA-related trial with Kirchner at the center. (The former president is also facing a third trial over a separate financial scandal, known as the “Future Dollars” case, that occurred during her time in government.)
Writing on Tuesday in the Argentine daily Clarín, journalist Daniel Santoro reported that lawyers acting for Nisman’s mother, Sara Garfunkel, were asking for access to evidence of high-level government communications, both on the day of the federal prosecutor’s death and one day after, that would demonstrate the existence of a”matrix of impunity” around Kirchner. Garfunkel also wants further judicial investigation of the claim that the purpose of her son’s murder was “to silence him and thus guarantee impunity to CFK [Kirchner].”
While it remains unclear whether Argentina’s Senate will even debate the lifting of Kirchner’s immunity from prosecution — a measure first requested by Bonadio in Dec. 2017 — it is possible for the trial to go ahead without the former Argentine president being present. Argentine legal pundits have also been discussing the possibility that the AMIA bombing and the murder of Nisman could be merged into a single trial.
“If the trial ends with a custodial sentence for Mrs. Kirchner after she exhausts her appeals, then the Senate will be under enormous pressure to remove her immunity and allow her to be jailed,” Eamonn MacDonagh, an expert on the AMIA case, told The Algemeiner on Tuesday.
Jewish groups welcomed the news of Kirchner’s impending trial. Bonadio’s announcement “redeems the good name of Alberto Nisman,” Shimon Samuels of the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) told The Algemeiner on Tuesday, noting that Kirchner had originally described Nisman’s death as a suicide.
Meanwhile, Kirchner’s co-defendant, Timerman, was reported to have arrived in New York on Monday after being authorized by Bonadio to travel to the US for cancer treatment. A lawyer for Timerman said that the former foreign minister had been permitted to visit the US for 30 days, and would have to secure permission for any future visits related to his medical treatment.
In a New York Times op-ed on Dec. 20, 2017, following Bonadio’s decision to place him under house arrest, Timerman described himself as a “political prisoner” in Argentina. In the same article, Timerman dismissed Nisman’s original complaint as “flimsy evidence” that was being used by Bonadio to persecute his political opponents.