On Monday, a federal judge announced that the former President of Argentina, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, would face trial over the alleged cover-up of Iranian involvement in the bombing of the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) building, a Jewish community centre, in Buenos Aires in the 1990s.
Eleven other former officials from the Kirchner government (2007-2015), including former Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman, will also face trial and four of the accused have now been detained. The federal judge investigating the alleged cover-up, Claudio Bonadio, requested in December that Congress waive the immunity from prosecution of the former president. Cristina Fernández de Kirchner became a senator on December 10 2017, and Argentine senators are protected from being arrested, although they can be tried. Congress has yet to act.
In Argentina’s worst ever terrorist attack, on July 18th 1994, a bomb placed in the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) building in Buenos Aires, killed 85 people and left hundreds wounded. To date, no one has been charged and the perpetrators remain the subject of speculation. In 2006, Argentine prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, accused the government of Iran of orchestrating the bombing, and Hezbollah of carrying the actual act out.
Back in January 2014, when Kirchner was still in office, Nisman issued a request that a judge interrogate President Fernández and her Foreign Minister, Héctor Timerman. Nisman had prepared a 289-page report, which accused the president and foreign ministry of communicating with the Iranian government via diplomatic back channels and offering to cover-up the involvement of five Iranian suspects in the AMIA bombing in return for a deal which would see Argentine grain exchanged for Iranian oil. Argentina at the time was facing potentially crippling energy shortages. In 2013, Iran and Argentina signed a memorandum of understanding, which established a joint investigation into the bombing, and more significantly, allowed Iranian officials to give evidence in Iran.
Then, in January 2015, somewhat incredibly, on the day before he was due to present his evidence to Congress, Alberto Nisman, despite his supposed ten-man security detail, was found dead in his 13th story apartment. He had been shot in the head with a bullet from a Bersa handgun, which was found lying beside him. Whether his death was murder or suicide became the subject of fevered speculation, but last year, the Argentine police ruled that his death was in fact, murder.
Judge Bonadio has yet to set a date for the trial.