Argentina to release bombing files

BUENOS AIRES, June 9 (JTA) — Argentine Jews are enthusiastic about a decision by their newly elected president, Nestor Kirchner, to release secret evidence related to a 1994 bombing at a Jewish community center that killed 85 people. “Dignity for Argentine Jews has been restored,” said Abraham Kaul, the president of the AMIA center, where the bombing occurred. Jewish leaders here and abroad have said Argentina’s inability to find the culprits is due to incompetence, corruption and anti-Semitism among security and government officials. But the decision regarding the secret files, first conveyed to Jewish leaders during a June 5 meeting with the president, provides a glimmer of hope that progress in the investigation will be made quickly. The decision, which will open the files of the state’s intelligence agency, is being seen as a positive indication that Kirchner is committed to pursuing the investigation of the bombing — especially since Kirchner made the announcement fewer than two weeks after taking office. Kirchner was elected president last month after a rival candidate, former President Carlos Menem, dropped out of a runoff. “This is one of the most important pieces of news in nine years,” Kaul told local media after meeting with Kirchner last week. The decision annuls a decision by Argentina’s previous president, Eduardo Duhalde, sealing the files. Some Jewish leaders are concerned, however, whether employees of the intelligence agency, known as SIDE, will be able to testify about the attack, believed to be the work of Iran and the Lebanon-based Hezbollah. Although Kirchner told the Jewish leaders that 14 intelligence officers will be allowed to testify, that was not part of the official announcement made about releasing the files. The AMIA bombing, which occurred July 18, 1994, was the second to hit Argentina’s Jewish community in two years. On March 17, 1992, a blast at the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires killed 29 people. That attack also remains unsolved. According to local media, the SIDE received information in May 1994 from diplomats in Lebanon that gave advance notice of an upcoming terrorist attack. “We expect this secret information will be useful,” said Enrique Zadoff, a local community leader. “And we want to have the declarations of the SIDE members, too, to see what they can bring to the case.” Relatives who lost family members to the attack long been among the most vocal critics of the slow nature of the investigation. After hearing about Kirchner’s announcement, Olga Detiar, who lost her 21-year-old son, Christian, in the AMIA blast, expressed cautious optimism. “We are tired of promises. But we have hope that things might change this time,” Detiar said.

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