In Argentina, the wheels of justice often turn so slowly that people feel they need to grease them a little to get things going.
That can be a problem, especially when it’s a judge who might be doing the greasing.
On Wednesday, the judge presiding over the investigation into the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center was dismissed for allegedly bribing a witness in the case.
A federal court dismissed Judge Juan Jose Galeano because officials believe he may have paid about $400 to bribe car mechanic Carlos Telleldin to compel him to testify against some former police officers accused of carrying out the bombing.
Telleldin is accused of providing the van used in the Buenos Aires bombing, which killed 85 people and wounded more than 300 on July 18, 1994. The former police officers are accused of carrying out the terrorist attack.
For two years, the court has been trying locals accused of involvement in the attack, and the process was expected to be completed within three months. At the same time, Galeano presided over the investigation of the local and international links to the attack.
The investigation is now in its 10th year, with few convictions to show.
Galeano’s dismissal came after a group of victims’ relatives made a request through their lawyer, Pablo Jacoby. Jewish leaders have been critical of Galeano’s handling of the case.
The Jewish community also frequently has decried the alleged lack of seriousness of government efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice. The complaints have been tempered somewhat by new attention paid to the case by Argentina’s new president, Nestor Kirchner.
If nothing else, Galeano’s dismissal means that trials of suspects in the attack will take even longer.
“It’s a sad day because we lost nine years, but we hope that the new judge will be far from political and communal influences,” Jacoby said.
The case now falls into the hands of Judge Rodolfo Canicoba Corral. He said he expects to put the investigation back on track, but it might take him months merely to get through the 100,000 papers in the case.
“It’s a brave verdict,” said Adriana Reifel, president of Memoria Activa, a group of victims’ relatives.
Abraham Kaul, AMIA’s president, said he was happy with the dismissal, but that more needed to be done.
“As the decision of leaving the judge out of the case was right, we hope now that justice will act over the political sectors that protected him” and that threw off the probe, Kaul said.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.