BUENOS AIRES (Aug. 29)
Prosecutors here are set to accuse Iranian intelligence and the Lebanon-based Hezbollah of masterminding the 1994 bombing of Buenos Aires’ major Jewish community center when the bomb trial begins next month.
The district attorney at the upcoming trial, Natalio Alberto Nisman, told JTA that “according to the investigation, there are enough elements to support the idea of an international connection with Iran and the Hezbollah group.”
On July 18, 1994, a bombing in the AMIA community center building killed 85 people and wounded hundreds. This attack followed a March 1992 attack against the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires that killed 29 people.
After an investigation that has been criticized for moving too slowly, the trial of Argentines suspected of links to the AMIA bombing is expected to begin on Sept. 24.
So far, five locals have been arrested on suspicion of aiding the bombers: car mechanic Carlos Alberto Telleldin, former Captain Juan Jose Ribelli and former policemen Anastasio Leal, Raul Ibarra and Mario Barreiro.
Another 15 people imprisoned for offenses connected to the bombing also will be judged at the trial, and more arrest warrants could be issued, Nisman said.
Investigative judge Juan Jose Galeano will be the prosecutor. Jewish groups in Argentina and around the world have frequently criticized Galeano’s investigation for failing to follow important leads.
The local Iranian community also has criticized Galeano. The most important Islamic authority in Argentina, Shiekh Abdul Karim Paz, told JTA that “the testimonies of former terrorists are considered false.”
Galeano is considering evidence given by a former Iranian intelligence officer, known only as “Witness C,” who identified Iranians and Hezbollah officials involved in the attack.
Karim Paz, who runs a Buenos Aires mosque, defended one of the prime suspects in the case, Moshen Rabbani, an Iranian cleric named cultural attache of the Iranian Embassy in Buenos Aires three months before the AMIA bombing.
The investigation traced a call from Rabbani’s cellular phone to the Iranian Embassy — three days before the attack – – from the area where the van used for the explosion was parked.
Rabbani’s present location is unknown, but he is presumed to be in Iran.
The investigation is following the track of Iranian diplomats traveling to Argentina from neighboring regions around the bombing date. Karim Paz told JTA that “those were official delegates with official invitations.”
Karim Paz, a former Catholic who converted to Islam, often said after the AMIA attack that the local Muslim community supports Lebanon and Iran.
“We will have to wait until the end of the trial to see the results,” he said.