Argentina wants to revive deal with Iran to solve 1994 attack

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 04, 2015 9:54 AM

By Sarah Marsh

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - The Argentinian government took out full-page advertisements in local newspapers on Wednesday, stressing that a stalled agreement with Iran remained the best way to get to the bottom of the deadly 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish community center.

An Argentine federal court last year struck down the controversial deal, which would have allowed the interrogation of Iranian suspects. Tehran denies any responsibility for the attack that killed 85 and refuses to extradite its citizens.

The investigation has become front-page news again since the beginning of the year, when the lead prosecutor accused President Cristina Fernandez of seeking to derail his probe. Four days later, he was found dead with a bullet wound to the head.

"It is only possible to ratify the path traced by the executive power and the national congress through the memorandum of understanding, a tool that would enable us to interrogate the Iranian citizens accused," the government said in the ad, framed with a border in the light blue of the national flag.

"This situation would put the Argentine state in a better position regarding Iran and the international community to demand extradition or negotiate a trial in a third party country."

A federal court last year deemed the memorandum "unconstitutional" but the government said it would appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court. It has not yet done so.

In January, the lead investigator into the 1994 attack on the AMIA community center, Alberto Nisman, accused the president of seeking to take the focus off the Iranian suspects in the case in order to get access to Tehran's oil.

Nisman was found dead in a pool of blood in his apartment the day before he was to testify before Congress about the allegations. The scandal sparked a blizzard of conspiracy theories and a political crisis that has dented the government's credibility.

In the latest twist in the tortuous case, a judge last week dismissed the allegations, saying Nisman's evidence suggested, on the contrary, the government had done all it could to aid the investigation.

In the ad on Wednesday, the government raised questions over Nisman's motivation for pressing cover-up charges despite simultaneously acknowledging its efforts.

"Could there be any hypothesis other than that he was trying to destabilize politics?" it asked.

The government has said Nisman's charges were part of a plan to smear the president's name and carry out a coup d'etat. The South American country has experienced six coups in the last century.

(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)