Argentine President Caught in Spat Among Jews over Amia Investigation by Florencia Arbiser

An internal communal squabble over the investigation of the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center here has broken out in full view of Argentina’s president.

Argentine President Nestor Kirchner decided to go to Washington to accept an honor May 6 from the American Jewish Committee for his commitment to the investigation of the AMIA bombing and his public inquiry into Argentina’s history of harboring Nazis after World War II. But Argentina’s main Jewish political umbrella group sent Kirchner a very different message.

Speaking at the AJCommittee’s annual dinner, Kirchner gave his country’s “most firm commitment to ascertain the truth of these events, and we will not give up until we achieve truth in both the Embassy and the AMIA case.”

But in a news release dated May 5, the DAIA umbrella organization of Argentine Jews expressed its “deep concern for the stagnation that the investigation of the July 18, 1994, attack, suffers from.”

Eighty-five people died when a bomb ripped through the AMIA center in Buenos Aires.

The DAIA said it was “aggravated by recent political decisions and deviations produced by the oral court” investigating the involvement of local Argentines in the attack, which many community members believe was sponsored by the government of Iran. Jewish officials repeatedly have maintained that the investigation is seriously flawed.

The statement concluded, “DAIA considers that it is not time for honors and that the cause requires a real political will for finding the truth.”

The statement was seen as a political broadside at the president, whose government has taken pains to push the AMIA investigation forward.

The next day, Argentina’s largest newspaper, Clarin, put the internal Jewish controversy on its front page. In the story, AMIA’s current president, Abraham Kaul, defended Kirchner.

“Kirchner has nothing to do with the state of the investigation,” Kaul was quoted as saying. “The president has done all he could for the investigation, even though some do not like this.”

The next day the DAIA issued another news release called for a meeting between Kirchner and AJCommittee officials to discuss the Argentine Jewish community’s concerns about the investigation.

For its part, the Argentine Foreign Ministry tried to keep matters calm.

This is an “internal Argentine issue,” Foreign Minister Rafael Bielsa said of the controversy.

Last December, the judge presiding over the AMIA investigation was dismissed for allegedly bribing a witness in the case.

A federal court dismissed Judge Juan Jose Galeano because officials believed he may have paid about $400 to bribe car mechanic Carlos Telleldin to compel him to testify against some former police officers accused of carrying out the bombing.

Telleldin is accused of providing the van used in the bombing, which killed 85 people and wounded more than 300. The former police officers are accused of carrying out the terrorist attack.

The court’s decision astonished layers for the AMIA and DAIA, as well as lawyers for some of the victims’ relatives. Buenos Aires city judges also protested the court’s decision.

Local Jews charge that the court is investigating the investigation rather than focusing on the actual defendants and those behind the planning of the bombing.

The long-running trial of the former police officers is scheduled to wrap up in the next few weeks.

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