Sunday, January 05, 2014

New developments in the AMIA case

Interesting new developments in the case of the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, still officially unsolved: Barak Ravid, Former Israeli envoy's diplomatic gaffe on Buenos Aires bombing Haaretz 01/04/2014.

In the American press it's routinely referred to as an Iranian-directed operation by Lebanese Hizbullah. And the Argentine authorities' official theory of the case also assumes Iranian involvement. But it's complicated. Charges are still pending against former Argentine President Carlos Menem for obstructing the investigation of the AMIA case.

Yes, some "Third World" countries have the bizarre idea that public officials who break the law should be held legally accountable. What an exotic concept!Long ago and in a more innocent time - okay, I mean 2008 - it actually seemed plausible that the Obama Administration might consider doing the same with current and former US officials who were known and in some cases publicly admitted perpetrators of torture crimes. It was not to be. But one person went to prison for leaking classified information about the torture crimes. Officials who turn whistleblowers on criminal activity, those the Obama Administration will prosecute aggressively.

Itzhak Aviran, the guy whose claims Israeli officials are hotly denying in this article, was a longtime Ambassador to Argentina. And, whether it means anything on this story or not, he was considered very close to Menem and his supporters.

Here's what Aviran said to stir things up:

Aviran, who served as [Israeli] ambassador [to Argentina] at the time of the attacks but retired 15 years ago, said that "a majority of those responsible for the act (the 1994 bombing) are no longer alive, and we took care of this on our own."

Aviran hinted, it seems, at the assassination of Hezbollah's chief of operations Imad Mughniyah in 2008, who was suspected of involvement in planning and carrying out the attacks.

Even though Israel never claimed responsibility for Mughniyah's assassination, Hezbollah has pointed its finger at Israel and threatened revenge.
Argentine officials were not happy to hear this:

The comments by the retired ambassador stirred up a storm in Argentina. Alberto Nisman, the Argentinian special prosecutor of the case of the 1994 bombing, hastened to respond and demanded Aviran be summoned for investigation.

"I was very surprised to hear these things," Nisman said in an interview with a local television station. "We would like to know how he knows these things, who are these people and what evidence he has in his possession."

Argentinian Foreign Minister Hector Timerman angrily charged Israel with concealing information about the identity of the attack's perpetrators from Argentina's justice system.

"Israel prevented the gathering of new evidence that could shed light on the affair," he said. "If there had been cooperation, as mandated by international agreements, the perpetrators may have now been serving out their sentence."

Timerman said he plans to summon Israeli ambassador in Buenos Aires Dorit Shavit to reprimand her and demand explanation for Aviran's remarks. He added that Avrian's comments explain why Israel opposes the agreement signed a year ago between Iran and Argentina for a joint investigation of the attacks.
Obviously, in a case like this it can be a challenge to separate the serious efforts of justice systems to find the facts and high politics. This case still serves as a incident that US and Israeli advocates of war against Iran use to point to the Islamic regime's foreign support of terrorism and their general perfidy.

From the standpoint of the Israeli government that presumably wants to keep doing so, there would be no obvious reason to antagonize Argentine authorities over this. Argentina is still pursuing an Iranian connection in the AMIA bombing. So it doesn't make sense that the Israeli government would sanction Aviran spilling the beans on something like that. I can see that since they've been encouraging the United States for years to go to war with Iran, they would take a dim view of Iran's agreement with Argentina to cooperate on the AMIA investigation. In fact, Iran's new willingness to cooperate with Argentina was probably in part a signal to the US that they would be willing to deal over the nuclear issue. So given their goal of getting up a war between the US and Iran, Israel's unhappiness with the Iran-Argentina agreement makes rational sense. But Israel's denial of Aviran's statement can hardly be taken at face value, either. Even if Aviran made the comment at the government's suggestion, Israel would likely prefer to avoid any official admission they had refused to cooperate with the Argentine government investigation of the case.

Raúl Kollmann reports more Cita para el encargado de la embajada israelí Página 12 on Hector Timerman's comments on the news. He suggested that if the Israeli government thought it had killed off the perpetrators, it might have not have had much interest in Argentina further investigating the case. Obviously, the Argentine government and those injured and the survivors of those killed have an interest in any information the Israeli government may have relevant to the case. Presumably if Israel could accurately identify the perpetrators, they have information that could clarify the case for Argentina, possibly including information relevant to the charges pending against Menem. Of course, according to Itzhak Aviran contested account, it sounds like Israel needed only enough evidence to execute them without the inconvenience of a trial. So if his claims are true, Israel would have reason to discourage any deeper examination of the case under normal judicial procedures.

Kollman also notes something hinky about Aviran's statement.

Desde 1992 hasta ahora se produjo la muerte de uno solo de los imputados, el libanés Imad Mugniyeh, pero la Justicia argentina siempre consideró que el principal artífice del ataque contra la mutual judía fueron el ex agregado cultural de Irán en la Argentina, Moshen Rabbani, el tercer secretario de la embajada en Buenos Aires, Ahmad Asghari, y el sindicado por el fiscal como el coordinador ataque, Samuel El Reda. Todos estos están con vida, lo mismo que las máximas autoridades de entonces en Irán, como el ex presidente Akbar Rafsanjani.

[From 1992 {1994?} until now only one death is known of those suspected by Argentine justice], the Lebanese Imad Mugniyeh. But Argentine Justice has always considered that the principal architects of the attack against the Jewish community center were the Iranian cultural attaché in Argentina, Moshen Rabbani; the third secretary of the Embassy in Buenos Aires, Ahmad Asghari; and the one charged by the prosecutor as the coordinator of the attack, Samuel El Reda. All of those are alive, the same as the senior authorities in Iran, like the ex-President Akbar {Hashemi} Rafsanjani.]
In other words, if the prosecution's theory of the case is correct, Israel didn't do such a thorough job in eliminating the perps. And if they did, the theory of Iran masterminding the AMIA bombing in 1994 may not be correct. Timerman also criticized Aviran for his explicit defense of two former officials who are also currently being prosecuted in Argentina for obstruction of justice in the case.

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