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Argentine Jews Commemorate Bombing’s Second Anniversary

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About 400 people gathered this week to mark the start of commemorations of the second anniversary of the terror bombing of the Jewish headquarters here that left 86 dead and 300 wounded.

On Monday, as they have done on every Monday since the July 18, 1994, bombing, a group known as Active Memory gathered at a park across the street from the Argentine Supreme Court and called on the government to find those responsible for the attack and bring them to justice.

During ceremonies that launched a weeklong series of commemorations for those killed in the attack on the Argentine Jewish Mutual Aid Association, or AMIA, a candle was lit in remembrance of the dead while a shofar was sounded.

The founder of Active Memory, Rabbi Sergio Bergman, addressed the gathering, saying that attention to the group’s motto, “Justice, justice you will seek,” a biblical quote, was needed in Argentina “because of the indifference of our country.”

The investigation of the AMIA bombing has been marked by a frustrating succession of false leads. The Argentine government has drawn the ire of Jewish groups here and abroad for failure to find those responsible for the attack.

The government has likewise been unable to find those responsible for the March 17, 1992, bombing of the Israeli Embassy, which left 29 dead and some 100 wounded.

“In a democratic society we should have justice,” said Bergman. “But here we have to actively seek it and take abuse from those who say these meetings are against the government.

“We have to reach out to our society at large and call them to this square, to these meetings. This place should be full, not of protesters but of citizens, not just of Jews but of citizens of all backgrounds.

“Where are they? Where are the artists, the intellectuals, the students, the politicians?”

The rabbi further complained about a recent decision by the city council banning Active Memory from erecting a monument to the AMIA bombing victims at the spot where the group holds its weekly gathering.

Members of the council, saying that the proposed location for the monument represented a provocation to the government, asked the group to consider other locations for the memorial.

In a related development, the official in charge of the AMIA bombing, Judge Juan Jose Galeano, ordered the arrests last Friday and Saturday of 18 Buenos Aires police officers on charges related to the blast.

Galeano said he believed that the police officers were part of a gang selling stolen cars and added that he hoped that the arrests would shed light on who sold the van used as a car bomb in the AMIA attack, it was reported.

The judge denied that the timing of the arrest was related to the recent resignation of Argentine Justice Minister Rodolfo Barra in the wake of reports of his anti-Semitic past.

Galeano also denied that he proceeded against the suspects only days before the second anniversary of the bombing to avert criticisms about the inconclusiveness of the investigation. “It is just a coincidence,” said the judge.

Local Jewish community officials reacted cautiously to the arrests.

They pointed out that more than 20 suspects, including members of the military and the police, were arrested in December after a much-publicized series of raids.

Those suspects were released after being interrogated.

“We hope he is onto something, and we are glad he finally moved against the gangs of policemen,” a Jewish official said of the latest arrests. “But he’s made other arrests only to release the suspects shortly afterward, so we do not want to create expectations.”

Bergman voiced the hope that last week’s arrests would not be just “another smokescreen.”

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