Argentine court rules ex-president may have covered up Iranian terrorist attack on Jews

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — Argentine former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who is on trial over corruption charges, is to be probed also on allegations that she had covered up evidence from the bombing of a Jewish community building in exchange for Iranian oil.

In the 249-page ruling by a Buenos Aires appeals court, which was handed down Thursday, three judges wrote that the evidence presented “does not permit a justified dismissal of possible illicit actions” by Kirchner in connection with a deal between her and her administration with Iranian officials.

The allegations were made by prosecutor Alberto Nisman who died mysteriously in January 2015, but were dismissed by a lower court before being upheld as meriting investigation by the appeals court.

Nisman accused Kirchner of trying to derail the investigation of a 1994 bombing at the AMIA Jewish community building, where 85 people died. Argentine courts have accused Iran of orchestrating the attack, though Iran has denied any involvement in it.

But in 2013, the Argentine congress under Kirchner approved an agreement with Iran to jointly investigate the 1994 bombing, despite passionate condemnations by representatives of Argentina’s Jewish community and Israel. A federal court in 2014 ruled the agreement was unconstitutional, prompting the government to appeal.

But last year, the new Argentine government under President Mauricio Macri effectively voided the agreement when it withdrew the appeal filed by its predecessor of the 2014 ruling.

Kirchner said the agreement was to make headway in the investigation, which has strained Iranian-Argentine relations. But according to Nisman, the move was part of a plan to close the country’s energy gap by trading Argentine grains for Iranian oil. She dismisses the charge as absurd.

Nisman’s death was initially classified as a suicide, but an official investigating the case said early this year that the evidence pointed to homicide. The investigation is ongoing.

The hard-charging prosecutor was just hours away from a scheduled appearance in Congress to brief lawmakers on his accusations against Fernandez when his body was found on the floor of his apartment, a 22-caliber pistol by his side.

Iran has repeatedly denied any link to the bombing, and an Argentine judge in February 2015 dismissed Nisman’s accusations as baseless. A review panel later agreed by a 2-1 vote, finding insufficient evidence to formally investigate Fernandez.

She has faced several criminal charges since leaving office a year ago. She was indicted this week on charges arising from allegations she and top officials from her administration skimmed money intended for public works projects.