Argentine ex-president faces court in bombing case

Argentine ex-president faces court in bombing case

Fernández de Kirchner is accused of covering up Iran’s involvement in 1994 attack

Argentina’s former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner faced trial on Thursday accused of treason for allegedly covering up Iran’s participation in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish social club in Buenos Aires, the country’s deadliest terrorist attack.

The accusations are based on a case filed by prosecutor Alberto Nisman, whose mysterious death in his apartment the night before he was due to present his arguments before congress in January 2015 was declared by investigating forensic experts last month to have been murder.

It is the third of several cases on which Ms Fernández is to go to trial since she left power two years ago. It follows the arrest of her longtime planning minister Julio de Vido over corruption charges after congress voted to strip him of his immunity on Wednesday, prompting him to hand himself over to the authorities.

Although Ms Fernández won congressional immunity after being elected as a senator in midterm legislative elections on Sunday — protecting her from charges that include money laundering, bribery and embezzlement — Mr De Vido’s downfall fuelled speculation that the former president was increasingly vulnerable.

The latest trial to involve Ms Fernández is one of the most sensitive, with the investigation into the bombing of the AMIA centre that killed 85 people plagued with charges of incompetence and corruption over the past two decades.

Judge Claudio Bonadio is investigating Mr Nisman’s claim that a secret deal signed between Iran and Argentina attempted to remove Interpol red alerts and cover up the involvement of high-ranking members of the Iranian government at the time.

Argentina had previously accused the Iranian-backed Hizbollah group of carrying out the attack under Iran’s orders, with six Iranians on Interpol’s most wanted list in connection with the bombing since 2007.

Earlier this year, a special investigative unit for the AMIA bombing, which Mr Nisman led before his death, announced that newly analysed DNA evidence from the bombing could provide a definitive link to Ibrahim Berro, a Hizbollah operative whose body has never been found.

President Mauricio Macri has said that he is determined to solve the mystery of Mr Nisman’s death.

Ms Fernández has also been charged over corruption accusations in public works projects, which Mr De Vido controlled as planning minister for 12 years, and manipulating the central bank’s sale of future dollar contracts in the final months of her presidency.

Ms Fernández and her supporters have repeatedly claimed that allegations against her are politically motivated. She said on Thursday that she was a victim of “defamation and harassment”.

“Dr Bonadio, from you I expect no justice,” Ms Fernández said in a written statement to the judge, accusing him of being involved in earlier cover-ups connected to the AMIA case. “I trust fully that when the rule of law is restored in Argentina, having been so dramatically affected today by the spurious and shameless connection between the executive and the judiciary, the justice that I demand will finally be provided.”

But many Argentines hope that these moves are the start of a cleansing of public life in Argentina, with a handful of former officials and associates of the government already in jail, including José López, a former public works secretary who was imprisoned last year after trying to hide bags containing about $9m in cash in a monastery.

Others being investigated over corruption accusations include Ms Fernández’s cabinet chief, Aníbal Fernández (no relation), who is accused of masterminding an ephedrine trafficking ring, and Amado Boudou, the vice-president.

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