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Argentina Will Try 20 Suspects in 1994 Jewish Center Bombing

Argentina has announced plans to try 20 people for the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center here.

Federal Judge Juan Jose Galeano, who is in charge of the investigation of the AMIA bombing, announced Monday that he has ended the search for local suspects but will continue to go after those who masterminded the bombing.

Officials have linked the bombing to the Shi’ite Hezbollah movement. The governments of Iran and Syria have also been accused of involvement in the attack, which killed 86 people and wounded some 300 others.

The trial is not expected to begin until the end of this year or the beginning of the next.

“We still have not totally solved this case, so we maintain the same commitment to discovering the truth,” Galeano wrote in his ruling ordering the trial.

He added that he felt a “personal commitment” to finding all those responsible.

Relatives of the bombing victims were not impressed by the judge’s trial order.

“It’s been more than five years since the bombing and we are still at square one,” said Diana Malamud, a member of Memoria Activa, a group of victims’ relatives that gathers every Monday morning in front of the Justice Palace.

Another member of the group told demonstrators Monday, “The damned trial will probably be futile and just provide a perfect excuse to close the AMIA investigation.”

Prosecutors are seeking life sentences for six of the defendants, including a car thief and five former policemen. They are accused of turning over to the terrorists a white Renault van that was used for the car bombing.

The remaining suspects, who include 11 former police officers, face lesser charges.

The AMIA bombing was the second major anti-Semitic attack to occur in Buenos Aires in the 1990s. A 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy left 29 dead and more than 200 injured.

Jewish leaders here and abroad have long cited incompetence, corruption and anti-Semitism among police and government officials as causes of Argentina’s inability to solve either bombing.

The AMIA center was rebuilt and opened its doors last October.

Reminders of the AMIA bombing are visible two blocks away from the new building.

There are 86 trees planted — one for every fatality — evenly spaced on a four-block-long strip.

A little plaque stands on the side of each tree with a name and the date: 1994 — July 18 — 1999.

They were placed there by the city government to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the bombing. Half a block away, on the intersection, there’s a dedication to the victims atop a street sign.

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