Monday, April 02, 2012

Former Argentine President Carlos Menem and the investigation of the AMIA Jewish community center attack of 1994

There are new developments in the case of the terrorist bombing in 1994 on a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. In The AMIA Jewish Community Center attack in Buenos Aires, 1994, I discussed some of the shady politics around the investigation of that crime. The attack itself was one of the worst terrorist attacks of the time and one of the deadliest anti-Semitic terrorist incidents ever, and it has been generally blamed on Iran. The AMIA attack is often cited as evidence of Iran's ability to carry out major terrorist attacks worldwide.

Now, an Argentine federal judge has decided that charges against former officials accused of blocking an important line of investigation in the case will go to trial, as reporting by Página 12 in Menem, a juicio oral por encubrimiento del atentado a la AMIA 30.03.2012. In additional to senior judicial and police officials, former President Carlos Saúl Menem will be one of the defendants. No, they aren't applying a Look Forward, Not Back policy toward former officials in the Argentina as the Obama Administration decided to pursue with crimes committed during the Cheney-Bush Administration. The Buenos Aires Herald has a brief English-language report: AMIA inquiry: Judge announces Menem, Galeano to go on trial 03/20/2012.

This is a Spanish-language news report from TV Public Argentina on the progress of the charges against Menem and others in the case, Causa Amia: Menem irá a juicio oral por frenar la "pista siria" en la investigación 03/31/2012.

In the earlier post, I mentioned a Wikileaks revelation published by El País (Juan Jesús Aznárez, EE UU sospechaba que la reapertura del caso Amia respondía al oportunismo del Gobierno argentino 22.02.2011) that the Cheney-Bush Administration pressured Argentina in 2008 to drop the charges that had been brought against former President Menem and others over irregularities in the investigation ofthe AMIA attack. The Cheney-Bush Administration was worried that the trials could cast doubt on Iran's role in the 1994 bombing, which is still used as a key propaganda accusation against Iran.

The leaked cable of 05/27/2008 is available here from El País. Here is its summary section:

Summary: AMIA Special Prosecutor Alberto Nisman called the Ambassador on May 23 to apologize for not giving the Embassy advance notice of his (ref A) request for the arrest of former President Menem and other GOA officials for their alleged roles in the cover up of the "local connection" in the 1994 terrorist bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center. He also assured the Ambassador that the coincidence of the arrest request with the visit of FBI Deputy Director Pistole was completely unintentional. He confirmed that the GOA had been aware ahead of time that he was going to make the announcement and said that he had been able to advance the case using newly declassified documents from Argentina's national intelligence agency (SIDE). Contacts at the Foreign Ministry and at the Argentine Jewish political organization (DAIA) suspect, however, that the specific timing of Nisman's announcement was driven more by domestic politics than by significant new developments in the case.

It is still the case, so far as I'm aware, that nothing in the public record to my knowledge definitively exonerates Iran from any role in the 1994 AMIA terrorist attack. But neither has the case been settled. This Wikileaks story shows that the Cheney-Bush Administration wasn't eager to have Argentine authorities digging into information that might cast further doubt on Iran's alleged role in the attack.

But the evidence linking Iran to the attacks is by no means so terribly clear. Argentine journalist Gabriel Levinas called attention to some of the problems with the position taken by the Administration of then-President Carlos Menim blaming Iran in his book La ley bajo los escombros. AMIA: lo quo no se hizo (1998).

In 2006, Argentine prosecutors sought charges against seven former officials for misconduct in the investigation of the AMIA attack. As Gareth Porter explains in Argentine Report Casts Doubt on Iran Role in '94 Bomb Inter Press Service 11/13/2006, the official investigation of the attack had dubious credibility in Argentina, due to "a bribe by the lead judge to a key witness and a pattern of deceptive accounts based on false testimony." As he explains at some length in that article, Argentina's government at the time had a uranium-sharing agreement with Iran, part of a cooperation between the two countries on civilian nuclear power that the Clinton Administration was pressing Menem's government to end. That cooperation raises questions itself about what Iran's motivation would have been to stage the AMIA attack.

The latest news is that an Argentine federal judge, Ariel Lijo, has decided that charges against former officials in the case will go to trial. Lijo is focusing on an alleged communication from then-President Menem's brother Munir Menem to a judge pressuring him to drop investigation of possible links of businessman Kanoore Edul to the attack. The now-deceased Kanoore Edul was a friend of Menem family, according to the Página 12 story.

It's not directly related. But Página 12 also reports on a former provincial judge who Argentina is trying to extradite from Chile to answer for charges of official misconduct in violations of human rights during the military dictatorship of 1976-83: Romano empezó a ser indagado en Chile 30.03.2012.

See also:

Gareth Porter, Bush's Iran/Argentina Terror Frame-Up The Nation 02/04/2008 issue (apparently published 01/18/2008)

Gareth Porter, US Officials Rejected Key Source on '94 Argentina Bombing 01/24/2008

Gareth also did an interview on the subject with Antiwar Radio's Scott Horton on 01/22/2009.

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