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ARGENTINA | 18-07-2019 15:19

Remembrance and renewed calls for justice as Argentina remembers AMIA bombing victims

Government officials attend commemorative event in capital as AMIA's acting president reiterates demand that those who carried out attack be brought to justice.

On a morning of pain, memory and pleas for justice, thousands gathered outside the AMIA Jewish community centre to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the single deadliest terrorist attack in the history of Argentina.

At 9.53am – the exact time of the attack on July 18, 1994 –  sounds of emergency vehicle sirens filled Pasteur Street in the capital, simulating the chaos that followed the explosion of a car bomb that left 85 people dead and hundreds injured. 

The government has long blamed the attack on the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Although there have been multiple on-again, off-again trials of judges and government officials involved in covering up the attack or interfering with the investigation, no-one has been tried for carrying out the attack.

“Twenty-five years later, we ask ourselves what is the origin of the hate raised by a group of people that idealised, planned and executed a terrorist attack with the sole objective of destroying life, and other human beings who they had chosen as the target of their fundamentalist ideology,” said Ariel Eichbaum, AMIA’s acting director, at the commemoration. 

Following a moment of silence, family members of the attack’s victims read each name of the dead one-by-one, proceeded by chants of “Present!” from the crowd.

Top officials from President Mauricio Macri’s government stood at the front of the crowd, including Vice-President Gabriella Michetti, Security Minister Patricia Bullrich, Cabinet Chief Macros Peña, Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie and Human Rights Secretary Claudio Avruj.

While President Macri did not attend the event himself, he is set to hold an event Wednesday evening at the Museum of the Casa Rosada with Andrián Werthein, the head of the Latin American Jewish Congress.

“He has preferred to receive the [Jewish] community, the survivors of the families, at the seat of the Casa Rosada,” Avruj told reporters before the event.

Despite heartfelt moments of remembrance, animosity toward Iran, Hezbollah’s top benefactor, coursed through the event.

The crowd applauded as Eichbaum praised the government’s recent decision to create a registry of terrorist organisations that will include Hezbollah.

"We know that various [members] of the accused continue to leave Iran, moving around to the various countries that are Iran’s partners and [they are] are permitted to live in Iranian territory,” Eichbaum said.

Sofía Gutman, the mother of one of the victims, expressed her dismay, saying of the attack’s perpetrators: “Why are they free? They are free and protected because terrorist countries protect terrorists. It’s simple.”

Gutman also chastised former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner by name, calling her government’s controversial 2013 Memorandum of Understanding with Iran a “betrayal” of the attack’s victims and their families.

Other partisan controversies also spilled over into the event, including the death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who had a flower placed onstage in his name, alongside roses for the attack’s victims.

Nisman, a special prosecutor in the AMIA case, was found dead hours before a presentation to Congress, in which he was to detail his allegations that Fernández de Kirchner and her government had sought to protect Iran from culpability in the attack.

Eichbaum, addressing the crowd, called it “imperative” for the country and for the rule of law that “the killers of Prosecutor Nisman be clarified and those guilty prosecuted.”

“How is it possible that 25 years later, there is not a single person responsible, imprisoned or convicted for this crime against humanity?” he added.

Lucas Robinson

Lucas Robinson

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