Argentine court rules ex-president may have covered up Iranian bombing of Jewish center


(JTA) — The appeals court in Buenos Aires has cleared the path to a criminal probe into former Argentine President Cristina Kirchner’s motives in cooperating with Iran on the investigation of the deadly 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center.

In a 249-page ruling handed down Thursday, three judges wrote that the evidence presented “does not permit a justified dismissal of possible illicit actions” by Kirchner in connection with a deal between her and her administration with Iranian officials. Kirchner, who already is on trial over corruption charges, allegedly covered up evidence from the bombing in exchange for Iranian oil.

The allegations were made by prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who died mysteriously in January 2015, and had been dismissed by a lower court.

Nisman accused Kirchner of trying to derail the investigation into the bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center, which killed 85 and injured 300. Argentine courts have accused Iran of orchestrating the attack, though Iran has denied any involvement.

In 2013, the Argentine congress under Kirchner approved an agreement with Iran to jointly probe the bombing, despite condemnations by representatives of Argentina’s Jewish community, Israel and others. A federal court in 2014 ruled the agreement was unconstitutional, prompting the government to appeal. Last year, however, the new Argentine government under President Mauricio Macri withdrew the appeal, effectively voiding the agreement.

Kirchner said the agreement was was made in order to make headway in the investigation, which has strained Iranian-Argentine relations. But according to Nisman, the move was part of a plan to close the country’s energy gap by trading Argentine grain for Iranian oil. She has dismissed the charge as absurd.

Nisman’s death was initially classified as a suicide, but an official investigating the case said early this year that the evidence pointed to homicide. The investigation is ongoing.

The prosecutor was just hours away from a scheduled appearance in Congress to brief lawmakers on his accusations against Fernandez when his body was found on the floor of his apartment, a .22-caliber pistol by his side.

Iran has repeatedly denied any link to the bombing, and an Argentine judge in February 2015 dismissed Nisman’s accusations as baseless. A review panel later agreed by a 2-1 vote, finding insufficient evidence to formally investigate Kirchner.

The ex-president has faced several criminal charges since leaving office a year ago. She was indicted this week on charges arising from allegations that she and top officials from her administration skimmed money intended for public works projects.

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