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September 26, 2018 2:19 pm

Iran Rejects Argentine President’s Demand for Cooperation Over AMIA Atrocity

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Argentine President Mauricio Macri addressing the UN General Assembly in New York. Photo: Reuters/Eduardo Munoz.

Iran has bluntly rejected the president of Argentina’s appeal for its cooperation in investigations into two major terrorist attacks on Argentine soil.

On a day dominated by US President Donald Trump’s accusation that Iran is “sowing chaos, death, destruction” in the Middle East, Argentine leader Mauricio Macri told delegates at the 73rd UN General Assembly in New York that Argentina had not forgotten the two attacks in Buenos Aires planned and executed by Iranian agents in the 1990s.

On March 17, 1992, the bombing of the Israeli Embassy in the Argentine capital claimed the lives of 29 people, injuring nearly 250. Just over two years later, on July 18, 1994, a truck packed with explosives drove into the headquarters of the AMIA Jewish Center in the city, killing 85 people and wounding over 300.

Noting that 2019 will mark the 25th anniversary of the AMIA atrocity, Macri stressed the importance of bringing its authors to justice. “We want to get the people involved in the attacks to appear in Argentine courts,” Macri stated on Tuesday, demanding that “Iran cooperate with the Argentine authorities” in the investigation of “the most brutal terrorist attack to occur on our territory.”

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Macri also urged the international community to avoid “sheltering or receiving” those accused of the atrocities. The Argentine leader referred to the “red notices” issued in 2007 by Interpol, the global law enforcement agency, seeking the arrest of the Iranian and Hezbollah operatives behind the AMIA bombing.

But on Wednesday, Iran responded to Macri’s speech by distancing itself from the attack. “The Islamic Republic of Iran strongly condemns acts of terrorism in any part of the world and in any shape,” foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said. “Accordingly, Tehran has repeatedly condemned the AMIA bombing since it took place and has expressed sympathy with the families of its victims.”

Despite the absence of a single conviction for the AMIA bombing, the judicial process around the attack has grown extraordinarily complex, with four distinct trials in motion. In the first trial, which began in 2015, former President Carlos Menem, Judge Eduardo Galleano, and several others face charges that they ordered an end to the investigation of a possible Syrian connection to the AMIA attack through businessman Alberto Kanoore Edul.

In the second trial, which is pending, former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, former Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, and several other senior aides face potential treason charges over a secret pact negotiated with the Tehran regime in 2013 that effectively abandoned the effort to bring the Iranian AMIA suspects to trial.

The third trial, also pending, involves Kirchner as well. Its focus is the January 2015 assassination of Alberto Nisman, the federal prosecutor who was placed in charge of a renewed AMIA investigation a decade earlier. It was Nisman’s efforts that led Interpol to issue the “red notices” in 2007. But as his investigation progressed, Nisman’s attention turned to Kirchner’s alleged collusion with the Iranian regime. That line of inquiry, many Argentines strongly believe, is what lay behind his murder.

Finally, there is the distant possibility of a trial of the AMIA suspects themselves. Of the original six “red notice” subjects, one of them — the notorious Hezbollah terrorist Imad Mughniyeh — is now dead, having been killed in a 2008 car bombing in Beirut. The surviving five — Ali Fallahijan, Mohsen Rabbani, Ahmad Reza Asghari, Ahmad Vahidi, and Mohsen Rezai — are understood to be in Iran.

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