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Argentina Seeks Iranians’ Arrests for 1994 Bombing of Jewish Center

March 11, 2003
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

After years of criticism of Argentina’s investigation of the deadliest anti- Semitic act since World War II, a judge has indicted four Iranians in connection with the 1994 bombing of Buenos Aires’ main Jewish institution.

In a 400-page report, Juan Jose Galeano asked Interpol to arrest four former Iranian government employees he believes are behind the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center.

Galeano, who is the investigative judge handling the case, said he is certain “radical elements from the Iranian Republic” were behind the attack, which killed 85 people and wounded hundreds.

The indictment was completed on March 5 but wasn’t made public until March 7, so Argentina could make arrangements to protect its diplomats and embassies abroad from possible Iranian reprisal.

But Galeano did not follow a prosecutors’ recommendation that senior Iranian officials, including Iran’s spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, also be indicted.

Abdolghassem Mesbahi, an Iranian defector whose testimony served as one of the bases for the report, earlier directly implicated Khamenei and then-Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani for the attack, and for a 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires that killed 28.

Galeano’s refusal to file indictments against the highest ranks of Iranian officials raised the prospect that Argentine Jewish leaders, who have been unhappy with the pace and scope of the investigation, would find fault with the indictments.

Jewish leaders here and abroad have said Argentina’s inability to find the culprits is due to incompetence, corruption and anti-Semitism among security and government officials.

Reports last year said the bomber who drove a van carrying some 600 pounds of explosives that destroyed the AMIA community center on July 18, 1994 was a Hezbollah member.

In his report, Galeano cited intelligence reports linking Hezbollah to the attack, although no specific member of the Lebanon-based group was named.

Already in 1994, Galeano had asked for indictments to be handed down against a group of Iranian suspects. The Argentine Supreme Court denied his demand at the time, saying he lacked sufficient evidence.

Since then, Galeano has been trying to gather enough evidence to secure international arrest warrants.

The four Iranians indicted are the former cultural attache in Buenos Aires, Mohsen Rabbani; a former security and intelligence minister, Ali Fallahijan; and former diplomats Ali Balesh Abadi and Ali Akbar Parvaresh.

Rabbani was named as the operational director of the attack.

None of the men still lives in Argentina, and it is unlikely they will be arrested unless they travel outside of Iran.

Iran condemned the news. A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry dismissed the charges as “made up by Zionist circles” in Israel and the United States.

According to Galeano’s report, former Argentine President Carlos Menem’s policy of closer ties with Israel was a factor in Iran’s choice of Argentina as the locale for the attack.

Among the specific policy moves Galeano mentioned were a trip Menem made to Israel, Argentina’s vote at the United Nations to rescind a U.N. resolution denigrating Zionism as racism and the participation of Argentine troops in the Persian Gulf war.

Other factors were the lack of control at customs and foreign borders, the country’s loose oversight of explosives and the ease with which visas could be obtained, Galeano said.

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