Argentine court to investigate possible cover-up in AMIA attack


BUENOS AIRES — An Argentine court is studying a possible cover-up in the investigation of the 1994 bombing that killed 85 people at an Argentine Jewish center.

This week, the court began inspecting the events following the July 18, 1994, bombing at the AMIA Jewish social service building in Buenos Aires.

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That attack and the March 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, which killed 29 people, remain unsolved.

The main AMIA court investigation ended almost two years ago with the entire case being thrown out by a special tribunal that had spent three years hearing the evidence. This trial was reportedly the longest and costliest in Argentina’s history.

A few weeks ago, an appeals court upheld that decision and opened up a judicial process to investigate the original failed investigation of the AMIA bombing.

Now a federal court will begin to try to unravel the mystery of whether there was a cover-up after the bombing — and whether it reached into the highest levels of the government of former President Carlos Menem.

Among those who were ordered to testify in this new proceeding are a former federal judge, Juan Jose Galeano; two of the original prosecutors; the former chief of the Argentine intelligence service and two of his top assistants; and Ruben Beraja, then-president of the main Jewish political organization, DAIA.

Court officials will not rule out possible interrogations for Menem and two or three of his top ministers.

The questioning is expected to center on why Galeano apparently paid a suspect $400,000 — from intelligence service coffers, whose expenditures must be approved by the president — to change his testimony and finger other defendants, why evidence went missing or was altered and why films of interrogations were burned with knowledge of the judge, the prosecutors and some lawyers involved in the case.

Galeano was forced to resign his court post earlier this year in the face of an impeachment trial concerning these charges.

Pablo Jacoby, the lawyer for Memoria Activa, one of three organizations representing families of the victims, said this new investigation “could prove to be very important if in the testimony we can find out who gave the orders to point the case toward a specific theory. We now know that the central focus of that original investigation was a set-up,” he said, referring to the fingering of a group of Buenos Aires provincial police officers.

While underscoring the importance of this secondary investigation, Jacoby said there are still hopes for advances in the central investigation, now under a new prosecutor, and he reiterated that Memoria Activa plans to go ahead with its presentation before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Washington in October.

“Some basic questions remain unanswered in this case and we will bring those to the court. For example: Why did the government have no contingency plan for disasters, why are the intelligence service files on the AMIA case not open to public scrutiny, how could public funds be utilized to pay off witnesses without public knowledge and a number of other matters,” Jacoby said.

A spokesperson for AMIA called the new court investigations “coherent” and said the next logical step would be calling Menem and former Interior Minister Carlos Corach to give testimony in the case.

However, a DAIA spokesperson complained publicly that the new investigation is not addressing the most important question of who bombed the AMIA building.