Prosecutors push again to investigate Argentine leader in bombing case

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 31, 2015 8:49 PM

By Hugh Bronstein

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentine prosecutors pushed for a conspiracy investigation against President Cristina Fernandez on Tuesday in the second appeal of a court decision that cleared her of trying to block the inquiry into a deadly 1994 bombing.

The accusation, that Fernandez conspired to cover up Iran's alleged role in a truck bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, threw her administration into turmoil when the claim was leveled on Jan. 14 by state prosecutor Alberto Nisman.

It turned into a full-blown political scandal when Nisman was shot dead under murky circumstances four days later.

Nisman said Fernandez had worked behind the scenes to clear Iran and normalize relations in order to clinch a grains-for-oil deal with Tehran.

She was exonerated by a judge in February, and a review panel agreed by a 2-1 vote this month that there was not enough evidence to formally investigate the president.

On Tuesday, the case was brought to Argentina's top appeals court by newly assigned prosecutor German Moldes, who helped organize a march of tens of thousands last month to honor Nisman and protest what demonstrators called a culture of intimidation and meddling in Argentina's justice system.

In his appeal, Moldes accused Fernandez of being involved in "a hidden plan that benefited another country while going against the objectives and interests of Argentina."

The president's cabinet chief Anibal Fernandez told reporters Moldes committed "malfeasance as big as a truck" by bringing a baseless and politically motivated appeal.

On Jan. 18, hours before he was scheduled to appear before Congress to outline his case against the president, Nisman was found dead in his apartment, shot in the head and a gun by his side. His death spawned conspiracy theories, some involving Fernandez.

A poll in February by consultancy Management & Fit showed 55 percent of voters believed Nisman's accusation against Fernandez was true and that she had something to do with his death.

But the political impact has softened since then, with Management & Fit's March survey showing Fernandez's popularity recovering to 36 percent versus 29 percent in February.

Fernandez calls the conspiracy accusation absurd, and Iran denies any involvement in the bombing, in which 85 people died.

Constitutionally barred from running for a third term in an October general election, the 62-year-old Fernandez has made it no secret that she plans to remain a public figure after stepping down in December.

(Reporting by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Ken Wills)