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Argentine Jews skeptical about bombing trial


BUENOS AIRES, July 19 (JTA) — The speeches at the annual commemoration of a still-unsolved bombing of the city’s major Jewish community center were familiar — survivors, victims’ relatives and community leaders clamored for justice and denounced corruption and cover-ups in the investigation.

But Wednesday’s ceremony for the 1994 car bombing, which killed 85 people and left hundreds wounded, took place amid news that 20 people accused of providing the bombing vehicle will be put on trial.

The trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 24 and last at least a year. The defendants include former high-ranking police officers and a used car dealer.

Great expectations have been placed on the trial, but many are skeptical that it will provide any real answers.

“The world will witness the closure of the AMIA case, but not the judgment of the real murderers, the masterminds, the accomplices or those who covered up the investigation,” said Diana Malamud of Memoria Activa, the more militant of the two AMIA victims’ groups, during their weekly rally Monday in front of the Federal Court building.

Skepticism about the trial follows long-term criticism of the investigation into the AMIA bombing — and into the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy here — for moving slowly and for failing to follow important leads.

“It is shameful for Argentina that the investigation has had such meager results,” said Jose Hercman, president of DAIA, the Jewish umbrella organization. “The case has been plagued by errors, deceptions and cover-ups.”

President Fernando de la Rua did not attend the memorial event, as he did last year, but met privately with Jewish leaders at the AMIA building on the eve of the anniversary. Most Cabinet members and many other government officials were present, but de la Rua’s absence did not go unnoticed.

After welcoming de la Rua’s pledges a year ago, the Jewish community is increasingly disappointed by the lack of progress in the investigation. A general economic and political crisis has made government officials the target of several protests.

Many community members were outraged that instead of attending the bombing commemoration, de la Rua visited a Toyota plant for the launching of a new vehicle.

De la Rua said he would not attend the ceremony “so as not to create logistical problems.”

“My government is committed to finding justice in this case,” de la Rua said. “This was an attack at our nation’s heart.”

The president’s promise to “make the case a matter of state and to give full support to the investigation has so far been very insufficient,” said Luis Czyzewski, who spoke for victims’ families at the rally.

Last year de la Rua became the first Argentine president to attend the anniversary, a gesture avoided by former President Carlos Menem. Menem currently is under house arrest, accused of supervising the illegal sale of weapons to Croatia and Ecuador when the two countries were under an arms embargo. That case, which has captured the national attention, has been linked to the AMIA and embassy bombings.

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