BUENOS AIRES (Oct. 26)
Argentine Jewish groups are reacting with enthusiasm, but also caution, to a prosecutor’s demand for the arrest of a former Iranian president and seven others in connection with the 1994 bombing of Argentina’s main Jewish center. Most victims’ relatives’ groups, the Jewish central institutions and local government officials, as well as political leaders, welcomed the 800-page statement presented Wednesday.
Twelve years after the AMIA building was bombed, killing 85 people and wounding some 300, prosecutors in a special investigative unit demanded that former Iranian President Ali Rafsanjani and another seven Iranians, including some who still hold official positions in Iran, be arrested.
The call by prosecutors Alberto Nisman and Marcelo Martinez Burgos comes after previous investigations had been repudiated as biased and false. Based on an extensive search of phone records, they concluded that the AMIA attack was planned on Aug. 14, 1993, in the Iranian city of Mashad. According to the prosecutors, the motive was that Argentina had stopped assisting Iran with nuclear technology in 1991.
The prosecutors’ call reprises the original investigative tack — first suggested by the Mossad and CIA — that pointed to Iran as the intellectual author of the attack.
Prosecutors for the former judge in charge of the case, Juan Jose Galeano — who eventually was disqualified for bribing a witness — also had demanded the capture of 12 Iranians. Interpol rejected the demand, however.
The investigative judge currently in charge of the case, Rodolfo Canicoba Corral, will have to decide whether to ask for the Iranians’ capture and extradition.
“Measures supported by law will be taken,” Canicoba Corral said Wednesday to the Argentine news agency Dyn.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman called the prosecutors’ call “big progress in the investigation,” and said that if the Justice Ministry decided to demand the Iranians’ capture, the Foreign Ministry would do all it could to help.
Leaders of AMIA and the Jewish community’s DAIA political umbrella group welcomed the call, with DAIA president Jorge Kirszembaum calling it “overwhelming.”
American Jewish groups also welcomed the development.
“Iran continues to be the No. 1 supporter and director of international terrorism, which underscores the absolute necessity of halting the Iranian nuclear program,” the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said in a statement.
Some people, however, said the call demonstrated a continuing “black hole” concerning Argentine participation in the attack.
Sofia Guterman was the mother of Andrea Guterman, 28, who was at AMIA looking for a job on the day of the attack and died in the bombing.
Guterman went to the prosecutors’ office Wednesday to receive a copy of the report herself.
“I was pleased to see the Iranian people accused, with their faces displayed at the judiciary office,” she told JTA. But she added, “As a mother, searching for justice, it’s still not enough for me.”
Previously a member of the Relatives and Friends of the Victims group, Guterman currently is an independent activist. A teacher, she visits schools around the country teaching students about the bombing.
“My commitment to the 85 victims is to awaken awareness in the new generations,” said Guterman, who has written five books on the attack that killed her only child.