Menu JTA Search

Jewish Leaders Press Argentina to Resolve Bombing After New Arrests

Following the arrests over the weekend of three new suspects in the July 18 bombing of the Jewish community center here, leaders of several South American Jewish communities joined in an effort to step up the pressure on Argentina to resolve the attack.

Jewish organizations from neighboring Brazil, Chile and Uruguay joined Argentine protesters at the now-weekly Monday morning gathering outside Buenos Aires’ Central Courthouse to press for a resolution of the attack and of the March 1992 explosion of the Israeli Embassy here.

The attack on the community center claimed 99 lives, and the one on the embassy killed 30.

While the protests, which are held Monday morning as a reminder of the attack this summer, had been silent until now, participants this week vented their frustration at investigators’ lack of progress.

“In the country of the full stop, due obedience and pardon it is logical that these crimes go unpunished,” said human rights activist Hermann Schiller.

He referred to laws that closed investigations and eventually pardoned military leaders accused of the torture and murder of at least 9,000 alleged leftist subversives during Argentina’s last military regime, which ruled from 1976 to 1983.

Schiller said law-enforcement officials should redouble their efforts to find local residents who may have collaborated with foreign terrorists.

“We are not denying the murderers may belong to Hezbollah,” the pro-Iranian terrorist organization, he said. “However, we cannot be sure that the Nazis had nothing to do with this criminal act.”

Argentina is home to a large German expatriate community, some of whom are suspected former Nazis.

POLICE ARREST THREE OF MIDEAST DESCENT

Over the weekend police arrested a man identified as Lebanese or Syrian, Ali al-Hasan, and two Argentineans of Syrian descent, Ernesto Tanuz and his son, Julio. The latter two were reportedly Hasan’s landlords.

Police reportedly found eight pounds of explosives, false documents from the Syrian Embassy and clippings about the bombing in Hasan’s home in the Buenos Aires suburb of Castelar.

Staff at the office of Federal Judge Susana Morris Douglas, who questioned the suspects early this week, were unable to confirm the findings.

Argentine officials have reacted cautiously to the latest detentions, and the judge investigating the bombing, Juan Jose Galeano, had not interviewed the suspects as of Tuesday.

Interior Minister Carlos Ruckauf reportedly said the arrests were only “leads” in the investigation. “Each of the leads has to be followed, but nobody should get excited about that. They are only leads. I am very cautious.”

About a dozen people have been arrested since the investigation began, although only the most recent suspects and an Argentine who sold the vehicle used in the bombing remain in detention. The two men of Syrian descent arrested over the weekend were expected to be released shortly.

In August, after interviewing a self-proclaimed Iranian defector in Venezuela, Galeano said Iranian diplomats had supported the attack.

The charges provoked Teheran and Buenos Aires into withdrawing their ambassadors for consultation, and Argentina’s Supreme Court ruled Galeano had collected sufficient proof for an investigation into Iran’s involvement.

NEXT STORY