BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — The prosecutor who inherited a high-profile case against Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner on Friday reaffirmed the accusations, formally renewing the investigation into whether the president helped Iranian officials cover up their alleged role in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center.
Prosecutor Gerardo Pollicita’s decision to go forward with the case was significant because it sets the stage for a close examination of the investigation that prosecutor Alberto Nisman was building before he was found dead Jan. 18. The next day, Nisman was scheduled to elaborate his accusations to Congress.
Nisman accused Fernandez, Foreign Minister Hector Timerman and others in her administration of brokering the cover-up in exchange for favorable deals on oil and other goods from Iran. Fernandez and Timerman have strongly denied the accusations, and Iran has repeatedly denied involvement in the bombing, which killed 85 people.
In his statement released Friday afternoon, Pollicita recounted Nisman’s accusations without providing analysis of them. He concluded that an investigation is necessary to “achieve a degree of understanding to prove or disprove the factual and dogmatic extremes expressed in the preceding paragraphs.” The statement also said, “An investigation will be initiated with an eye toward substantiating … the accusations and whether those responsible can be held criminally responsible.”
Pollicita will present his findings to judge Daniel Rafecas, the federal magistrate assigned to the case who will ultimately decide whether to dismiss it or send it on to trial.
Even before Pollicita’s decision, amid rumors that it was coming, the administration was moving to both reject and minimize it.
Cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich called the move a “judicial coup” during his daily press briefing.
“The Argentine people should know that we’re talking about a vulgar lie, of an enormous media operation, of a strategy of political destabilization and the biggest judicial coup d’etat in the history of Argentina to cover the real perpetrators of the crime,” he said.
Similarly, Presidential spokesman Anibal Fernandez said moving the case forward was a “clear maneuver to destabilize democracy” but that ultimately “it has no legal value. It does not matter.”
The strength of Nisman’s 289-page investigation, presented to a judge a few days after his death, has been hot topic of debate within the legal community.
The basis of his case are wiretaps of administration officials allegedly talking about a secret deal around the time of a 2013 “Memorandum of Understanding” that Argentina reached with Iran. The agreement, which is being challenged in Argentine courts, on its face sets the conditions for the two countries to investigate the bombing.
Juan Jose Avila, a criminal lawyer, said arguing that Nisman’s case wasn’t strong enough misses the point because at this stage, no investigation is ready to be tried in court.
“No accusation, when it’s first made, is proven,” he said.
For 21 years, Argentina has demanded justice and truth for the attack on the Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires, the AMIA.
Case against Argentine president moves forwardFor 21 years, Argentina has demanded justice and truth for the attack on the Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires, the AMIA.
In 1992, the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires was bombed, killing 27 people. The embassy has since moved its location and increased its security. All that remains here is the memorial. But in 1994, there was an even worse attack.
“We have taken a lot of care to preserve the memory, the memory since the first day,” Ana Weinstein, director of the AMIA archives said. “I heard a noise, it was very strong, lights went out. I had barely got to the office and had sat down to talk to the right person, when I heard the noise. The lights went out….you heard things falling. I realized later it was the building that was falling. There was screaming. We didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t breathe, there was dust.”
Story compiled with information from The Associated Press and Reuters.
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