BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — Over Jewish community protests, Argentina’s Congress approved an agreement with Iran to jointly investigate the 1994 bombing of the Buenos Aires AMIA Jewish center.
Following 13 hours of rancorous debate, the Lower House on Thursday approved the bill establishing a "truth commission" to probe the bombing by a vote of 131 to 113. The memorandum of understanding, which allows independent judges to interview suspects, was approved last week in the Upper House.
No lawmaker from the main opposition parties voted for the bill, but the ruling party of President Cristina Fernandez has a majority in both chambers. Fernandez said the accord could shed new light on the case after years of deadlock, Reuters reported.
The main institutions of the Jewish community organized a demonstration Thursday morning outside the parliament building, gathering approximately 100 critics of the agreement and the government.
AMIA and the local Jewish political umbrella, DAIA, slammed the agreement, saying Iran is not reliable.
"The truth in this case is established by Argentinian justice; we need the Iranians here to face Argentinian justice, not a truth commission with Iran,” DAIA President Julio Schlosser told JTA.
On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, who is Jewish, was questioned during the debate about commercial and geopolitical interests related to the agreement. Timerman guaranteed that “no other issue had been discussed” with Iran.
He squared off later with Federico Pinedo, the caucus leader of the Republican Proposal, or PRO, party, who inquired “why the agreement had been reached on the anniversary of the Holocaust. It was an Iranian imposition?” he asked.
Timerman urged Pinedo to “take back" what he had said.
“It is clear that none of you ever lost anyone in the Holocaust. You keep adding fuel to the fire and keep using the Holocaust politically. You should be ashamed of yourselves. You deeply offended my soul,” Timerman yelled.
Earlier, lawmaker Elisa Carrio had told Timerman, “You are giving up on the Jewish and Argentine people. If I were you, I would have resigned before signing this embarrassment.”
On Thursday, the Iranian parliament began examining the agreement, confirmed the chairman of the Committee for Foreign Policy and National Security of the Islamic Consultative Assembly of Iran, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, according to the Tehran Times. The paper reported in a news brief about the agreement signed with Argentina.
Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi is among the Iranian officials sought by Argentina, which is home to Latin America’s largest Jewish community.
The United States has criticized the pact, as have Jewish leaders.
“The idea of establishing a ‘truth’ commission on the AMIA tragedy that involves the Iranian regime would be like asking Nazi Germany to help establish the facts of Kristallnacht,” said American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris in a statement issued in late January. “It is offensive not only to the families of the 85 murdered and hundreds wounded, but to the entire Argentine nation, which for more than 18 years has sought justice."
B’nai B’rith International President Allan Jacobs said in a statement, “Given Iran’s deplorable judicial track record and its refusal to turn over those previously implicated in the bombings, there’s little reason to believe anything substantial will come out of this commission.”