Argentine Judge Releases Extradited Bombing Suspects

An Argentine judge has released seven Lebanese and Brazilian nationals who had been suspected of links to the bombing of Jewish buildings here.

The seven were extradited from Paraguay in connection with a separate investigation into illegal stocks of weapons found near Buenos Aires in April 1994.

Argentine officials had hoped that the seven also would provide information regarding last year’s terrorist bombing of the Jewish community’s headquarters here, as well as the 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy.

Judge Roberto Marquevich freed the seven suspects on July 27, after they underwent two days of interrogation.

Marquevich, who reportedly had based the extradition request on domestic and foreign intelligence reports, said last week the information he now had not sufficient to bring a judicial case.

The suspects — six Lebanese and one Brazilian — were arrested in Paraguay in February. After months of legal wrangling, they were extradited to Argentina on July 23 and held at a military base outside Buenos Aires.

Although three of the suspects — Sergio Salem, Luis Nader and Johnny Moraes Baalbek — admitted to having sympathies towards the Islamic fundamentalist Hezbollah movement, Marquevich said there was no basis to sustain allegations that they were part of a terrorist cell.

The Argentine government has come under sharp criticism for its handling of the investigations into the two bombings. The July 18, 1994, bombing of the Buenos Aires Jewish headquarters killed 86 people and left at least 300 wounded. The March 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires claimed the lives of 29 people and wounded more than 100.

The government’s investigations have yielded few arrests and no conclusive explanation of the bombings.

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