BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — A judge in Argentina ordered the arrest of former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner for treason and covering up the alleged involvement of senior Iranian officials in the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish center.
Judge Claudio Bonadio ordered the arrest on Thursday and asked the Argentine Senate to strip Kirchner, who now serves as a senator, of her parliamentary immunity, clearing the way for her arrest and trial.
Bonadio’s order also targeted other Argentine officials in the effort to cover up Iran’s involvement in the attack, including former Foreign Minister Hector Timmerman, who is Jewish and is currently under house arrest, and former head of the Federal Intelligence Agency Oscar Parrilli, who was charged but not arrested. Parrilli was ordered not to leave the country.
Kirchner’s former legal secretary Carlos Zannini, Muslim community leader Jorge Alejandro Khalil, and pro-Iranian activists Luis D’Elía and Fernando Esteche all were arrested in raids on Thursday morning.
In his 491-page ruling, Bonadio wrote that the 1994 attack on the AMIA center, which killed 85 people and left more than 150 injured, and a 1992 attack on the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires were “acts of war” by Iran against Argentina. A memorandum that Kirchner had signed with Iran to jointly investigate the attacks appeared to achieve Iran’s goal of avoiding being declared a terrorist state, the judge wrote.
Bonadio charged that the former Argentine officials and the Muslim activists had been involved in this “criminal plan.”
The arrest warrant against the former government officials is based on a 2015 accusation made by the late Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor charged with investigating Iran’s alleged role in the AMIA bombing. Nisman claimed that Kirchner had set up a “parallel communication channel” with Iran in order to avoid incriminating senior Iranian government officials in the bombing. President Mauricio Macri canceled the memorandum in December 2015 in his first week in office.
Nisman was found dead in his apartment in 2015, the day before he was scheduled to present his allegations to the Argentine Congress.
“Finally justice is advancing and all we can confirm now is that what Nisman said had a substance,” Ariel Cohen Sabban, the president of Argentina’s Jewish umbrella group, DAIA, told reporters on Thursday. “Now it will be the judiciary that will have to determine if that substance is valid or not. But the Nisman accusation must be investigated and finally will be investigated.”
At a news conference Thursday at the parliament in Buenos Aires, Kirchner was indignant.
“This is political persecution,” she said. “The government doesn’t want my voice in the Senate. They are trying to silence the opposition. This has nothing to do with justice, nor with democracy.”