Monday, January 19, 2015

Prosecutor in Argentina Jewish center bombing found shot dead

Alberto Nisman shot dead; was set to testify that Argentine government had covered up Iranian involvement in 1994 Jewish Center bombing

Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman

The Argentinean prosecutor investigating the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires was found dead in his apartment on Sunday night with a gunshot wound to the head, hours before he was set to testify before lawmakers on his accusations of a cover-up by his country’s president in the case.

... Police were investigating and had initially ruled the death a likely suicide.

The timing of Nisman’s death raised eyebrows, as the prosecutor had been set to speak before a congressional panel about his assertions, made public last week, that President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman had covered up Iran’s involvement in the attack.

Nisman had filed a 300-page complaint naming Fernández, Timerman and others of seeking to “erase” Iran’s role in the bombing at the AMIA community center offices in which 85 people were killed. He had said he wanted to question the president and other officials whom he claimed were involved in the cover-up.

Nisman claimed that the president had decided to “not incriminate” former senior Iranian officials for their roles in planning the bombing, and instead has sought a rapprochement with Tehran, “establishing trade relations to mitigate Argentina’s severe energy crisis,” the Buenos Aires Herald reported.

When her agreement with Iran was challenged in the Argentinean courts...the president ordered to divert the investigation, abandoning years of a legitimate demand of justice, and sought to free the Iranians imputed (in the case) from all suspicions, contradicting their proven ties with the attack.
“The president and her foreign minister took the criminal decision to fabricate Iran’s innocence to sate Argentina’s commercial, political and geopolitical interests,” the [the Buenos Aires Herald] quoted Nisman as alleging.
Last May, an Argentine court declared unconstitutional an agreement Between the Argentinian government and Iran to jointly probe the 1994 bombing of the Buenos Aires Jewish center. The agreement had been approved in 2013 by Argentina’s congress, at the request of the executive branch. Nisman consistently argued that the agreement constituted “undue interference of the executive branch in the exclusive sphere of the judiciary.”

Since 2006, Argentine courts have demanded the extradition of eight Iranians, including former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, former defense minister Ahmad Vahidi and Mohsen Rabbani, Iran’s former cultural attache in Buenos Aires, over their alleged involvement in the bombing.

Buenos Aires was the site of two major attacks on Jewish sites in the 1990s: A 1992 attack on the Israeli Embassy killed 29, while the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center left 85 dead.

Prosecutor Nisman traced the authorization for the July 18, 1994, terrorist attack to a meeting of Iran’s National Security Council held a year before, and compiled sufficiently compelling evidence of Iran’s role in the crime as to have several leading Iranian figures, including Vahidi and former presidential candidate Mohsen Rezai, placed on an Interpol “red notice” list. The final decision to attack the AMIA center was allegedly made by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and then-president Rafsanjani.

The specific motivation for the 1994 AMIA bombing, according to Nisman, was to punish Argentina for suspending its nuclear cooperation with Iran. Once the decision was taken to act against the country, Nisman told The Times of Israel, it was a Jewish target that was decided upon — again, a familiar Iranian strategy. “When they choose to act against a country, the attack is commonly on the Jewish community,” he said. “It’s the first target.”

*JTA and AFP contributed to this report.



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