Argentine police arrested 20 people here in an effort to find those responsible for the July 1994 bombing of the city’s Jewish community center.
The arrests came after police carried out 47 searches of private homes, car- repair shops and businesses of people who may have been involved in the July 18, 1994, terror bombing.
Along with the arrests, police seized several boxes of documents, including tax records of potential suspects in the case. …TX.-The police action came in the wake of criticism at a recent U.S. congressional hearing that the Argentine government had not carried out a vigorous investigation of the bombing, which claimed the lives of 86 and left more than 300 wounded.
Judge Juan Jose Galeano, the official in charge of the bombing case, ordered the searches, in which stolen cars and counterfeit license plates were also found.
Galeano refused to comment on the operations, but one of his prosecutors, Eamon Mullen, said the “searches are the result of months of careful date-gathering by judiciary and police officials.”
Mullen said the car-repair shops and offices searched belonged to “friends and associates” of Carlos Alberto Telleldin, the sole person so far detained in the case.
Telleldin is suspected of selling the van that was used for the car-bomb that destroyed the Argentine Jewish Mutual Aid Association.
Galeano has said publicly that “Telleldin is lying about his role; he knows more than he says.”
Mullen said his investigating team now believes “that Telleldin did not sell the van to the bombers, but simply turned it over to them, because he was part of their group. That would make him an accomplice in the killings.”
Telleldin has consistently denied any involvement with a terrorist cell.
Last week, he told Galeano that he would give “more information in exchange for $300,000, a new identity for me and my family and police protection.”
Argentina has no witness-protection program, and prosecutors are barred by law from granting immunity to alleged felons.
Telleldin also told Galeano that he had received death threats from police in the Buenos Aires province.
Galeano subsequently removed Telleldin from a downtown jail and placed him in an isolation block in a more secure lockup.
Buenos Aires province Police Chief Pedro Klodzyck denied that any of his subordinates had threatened Telleldin or were involved in the bombing.
“International terrorists operate underground,” said Klodzyck, “and it is preposterous to think that they contacted cops as accomplices.”
The Argentine press has highlighted the fact that the long-dormant terror- bombing case suddenly came to life after the Sept. 28, 1995, hearings of the U.S. House International Relations Committee in which Argentine and American Jewish officials and security personnel criticized the handling of the case by the Argentine government.
Faced with harsh criticism from Washington, Argentina is considering a diplomatic reaction.
Interior Minister Carlos Corach said his government is considering lodging a formal protest against the United States.