BUENOS AIRES – Former President Cristina Fernandez will stand trial on charges of trying to conceal Iranian involvement in a 1994 attack on a Jewish organization in Buenos Aires that left 85 people dead, Argentine judicial sources said Monday.
Federal Judge Claudio Bonadio did not set a date for the trial, where Fernandez is to be joined in the dock by former Foreign Minister Hector Timerman – himself a prominent member of Argentina’s Jewish community – and 11 other people, the sources said.
The accusations against Fernandez and the others were brought in January 2015 by Alberto Nisman, the special prosecutor for the 1994 attack on the AMIA Jewish organization, for which Tehran denies any responsibility.
Nisman was found dead Jan. 18, 2015, four days after he announced the charges, killed by a single shot to the temple fired from a gun he had borrowed from a colleague. The case remains under investigation as a “suspicious death.”
Following Nisman’s death, another prosecutor took up the accusation that the Memorandum of Understanding the Fernandez administration signed with Iran in 2013 to facilitate the AMIA investigation was actually the principal instrument of a cover-up.
A succession of courts rejected the indictment, but the case was revived once Fernandez was succeeded as president by conservative Mauricio Macri.
Fernandez, who denounces the charges as politically motivated, has repeatedly proclaimed her innocence.
“We had no other purpose in signing the Memorandum of Understanding than to achieve an advance through the questioning of the Iranians accused (of the AMIA bombing), the only way for the investigation in progress to emerge from the dead point in which it then found itself,” she told Judge Bonadio in a written statement.
Nisman sought in 2006 the arrest of a number of current and former Iranian officials for the attack, but Tehran refused to turn them over, and a court in the United Kingdom likewise turned down an extradition request for one of the accused while he was on British soil.
Under the 2013 MoU, Argentine prosecutors were to travel to Iran to question those individuals.
Though the MoU was never implemented, Nisman said that intercepts of telephone calls among some of the prospective defendants – not Fernandez or Timerman – showed the outlines of a plan for Argentina to get Interpol to rescind the red notices the international police agency had issued for the arrest of the accused Iranians.
Yet the man who headed Interpol for 15 years until November 2014 rebutted Nisman’s key accusation.
“I can say with 100 percent certainty, not a scintilla of doubt, that Foreign Minister Timerman and the Argentine government have been steadfast, persistent and unwavering that the Interpol’s red notices be issued, remain in effect and not be suspend or removed,” Ronald K. Noble said in January 2015.
Timerman, for his part, labeled Nisman a liar and said that the prosecutor allowed himself to be unduly influenced by Antonio “Jaime” Stiuso, who was fired from a senior post in Argentine intelligence in late 2014 after more than four decades as a spy.
Argentine observers likened Stiuso to FBI founder and long-time boss J. Edgar Hoover, who used his position to amass compromising information about US politicians and other prominent figures.
Stiuso was also reputed to have forged strong ties with foreign spy agencies such as the CIA and Israel’s Mossad.
Gareth Porter, a US historian and investigative journalist, noted in 2015 that the evidence for Nisman’s accusations against Iran included testimony from four members of the Mujahedeen E-Khalq (MEK), an Iranian opposition group that fought alongside Iraqi troops against their own country in the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War.
Nisman also said that the man behind the wheel of the explosives-packed truck used in the AMIA attack was a Lebanese national named Ibrahim Hussein Berro.
But the putative suicide bomber’s brothers, who live in the United States, said that their sibling died fighting for Hezbollah against the Israelis in southern Lebanon and that they had a death certificate to prove it.