Argentina ex-FM accused of Iran cover-up released from house arrest
AFP - BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Former Argentine foreign minister Hector Timerman, who is being treated for cancer, was released from house arrest Wednesday, the official Telam news agency reported.
The prosecution had previously rejected his request for release, but substitute judge Sergio Torres granted his release “on humanitarian grounds,” the agency said.
The move comes after Timerman was prevented from boarding a flight to the United States late Tuesday after his visa was rejected.
Timerman — a member of ex-president Cristina Kirchner’s government from 2010-2015 — was placed under house arrest in December accused of covering up Iranian involvement in the deadly 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish center.
The 64-year-old former minister had obtained a permit from Argentina’s justice ministry to travel to New York for treatment for cancer, which has confined him to a wheelchair.
But according to Argentine press reports, when his visa was checked at Buenos Aires’ Ezeiza airport late Tuesday he was prevented from boarding the flight.
Kirchner’s parliamentary group reacted angrily to the incident. “Timerman cannot enter the United States because his visa was revoked because of the preventive detention,” the head of the bloc, Agustin Rossi wrote on Twitter.
He said Claudio Bonadio, the judge prosecuting Timerman, Kirchner and others for the alleged cover-up, was responsible. Kirchner herself enjoys parliamentary immunity from preventive detention through her senate seat.
Timerman was sentenced to house arrest rather than jail because of his health.
“I have asked to be judged as quickly as possible. Preventing me from getting timely medical attention is like condemning me to death,” Timerman wrote in an op-ed in the New York Times on December 20, in which he described himself as a “political prisoner.”
“Argentina’s Constitution does not permit the death penalty. But with a judge like this, that is little guarantee,” he wrote.
Bonadio believes Timerman, Kirchner and others covered up Iranian involvement in the bombing by pushing for the signing of a pact with Iran, under which suspects could be questioned in Iran and not brought to Argentina.
The plan was formally approved by both houses of the Argentine Congress, but never ratified by Iran.
Nobody has been tried for the bombing, which killed 85 people.
Timerman, a former ambassador to the US, lived for more than a decade in the United States where one of his daughters was born.