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argentina AMIA BOMBING INVESTIGATION

AMIA probe: Cristina Fernández de Kirchner appears in court

She declined to testify before the judge in question, Claudio Bonadio, and only presented a written statement.

Thursday 26 October, 2017
Former president and senator-elect Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, arrives at the Comodoro Py courthouse yesterday.
Former president and senator-elect Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, arrives at the Comodoro Py courthouse yesterday. Foto:AFP/EITAN ABRAMOVICH

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Former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner appeared before a court today as part of an investigation into late special prosecutor Alberto Nisman’s accusation that she sought to cover up Iran's alleged involvement in Argentina's worst terrorist attack.

Fernández de Kirchner has denied the allegations and has repeatedly told reporters that President Mauricio Macri is politically manipulating the judge who ordered her to appear in court as part of the case.

Yesterday, she declined to testify before the federal judge in question, Claudio Bonadio, and only presented a written statement in which she said the accord with Iran had sought to advance the investigation in the unsolved bombing, refusing to answer additional questions. Calling the case an "absurdity" and "total nonsense," the former head of state – who held the nation's highest office from 2007 until 2015 – went on to attack Bonadio, which is based on charges first levelled two years ago.

"I don't expect any justice from you," Fernández de Kirchner, reading from a 17-page prepared statement, told the federal judge bluntly.

Bonadio — a Peronist who worked as an official for the Carlos Menem administration — has overseen a number of cases involving the former president and her family.

"The negotiations with Iran had only one goal: to allow prosecutors to question the Iranians who have been charged," she said, adding that the case had faced hurdles because Iran refused to extradite the suspects and Argentina doesn't allow for trying suspects in absentia.

Fernández de Kirchner accused Bonadio of "being part of the attack's cover-up" tied to the 1989-1999 Menem administration. Menem is on trial for allegedly derailing the investigation into the bombing.

The 1994 bombing of the Argentinean-Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA) Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires killed 85 people, with hundreds more injured. The case has moved forward only in fits and starts in Argentina's judiciary and has been frustrated by Iran's refusal to cooperate.

Nisman, the special prosecutor investigating the case, was found dead of a gunshot wound to his head in his apartment in 2015, days after he made the claims against the former president and a matter of hours before he was due to present his claims before Congress. Experts concluded last month that his death had been the work of two individuals and was not a suicide.

He claimed to have uncovered an alleged conspiracy headed by the former president that sought to clear five high-ranking Iranian suspected of masterminding the bombing. Nisman cited the Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2013 with Iran as an evidence of his allegations. The deal was approved by Congress in the same year but later declared unconstitutional by a federal court in 2014.

Fernández de Kirchner’s appearance in court is the latest in a series of testimonies given by politicians and aides, who have been issued with orders to appear before the courts.

The former president’s appearance came just a day after longtime Kirchnerite and ex-Planning minister Julio De Vido handed himself over to the authorities, after lawmakers in the Chamber of Deputies voted to strip him of his congressional immunity from prosecution.

Since leaving office, Fernández de Kirchner has been hit by a string of corruption scandals and was indicted last year. She won a Senate seat during Sunday's midterm elections, which grants her immunity from arrest or search warrants, but not from trial. Analysts say her second-place in the elections dimmed her chances of a presidential run in 2019.

- TIMES/AGENCIES

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