A legal team representing Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has formally requested the recusal of Judge María Eugenia Capuchetti from the case investigating the failed assassination attempt against the vice-president last September 1.
In a strongly worded complaint against the magistrate, lawyers José Ubeira and Marcos Aldazábal accused Capuchetti of “manifest partiality” against the vice-president and of overseeing “a series of clearly arbitrary resolutions” and causing a “total investigative paralysis.”
"We are facing one of the most important cases in our democratic history, and we need the investigation to be led by someone who is willing, and that the decisions are taken by an impartial judge, committed to truth and justice," they insisted.
The judge's conduct in the case so far has been, according to the plaintiffs, "at the very least, negligent," and is due to a deliberate attitude on the part of the court.
The move was trailed by Fernández de Kirchner last week, when the two-term former president accused the judge of having "paralysed and boycotted the investigation" in a video on Twitter. Attempting to link opposition PRO deputy Gerardo Milman to the attack, the vice-president made allegations that have subsequently come to be known as the ‘Casablanca trail.’
The name refers to testimony provided a Frente de Todos advisor in the Chamber of Deputies, who alleged they had overheard Milman, a former Security Ministry official, in a café near Congress telling two aides (Ivana Bohdziewicz and Carolina Gómez Mónaco) that an attack might take place before it had actually occurred.
"I am resigned to the fact that the justice system will not investigate anything,” said Fernández de Kirchner in a post on Twitter last week.
“They want me as an accused, not as a victim," said the former 2007 to 2015 president, who is facing a potential 12-year prison sentence for alleged corruption offences in another trial.
The Casablanca line of investigation (named for the café at which it took place) was, until recently, kept under judicial secrecy. It later resulted in an investigation for false testimony, a conclusion that Fernández de Kirchner’s legal team believes is patently incorrect.
According to Jorge Arbello, an advisor to Peronist congressman Marcos Cleri and the "key witness" in the the ‘Casablanca trail’ theory (named for the café at which the comment was allegedly made), Milman reportedly told Bohdziewicz and Mónaco that "when they kill her, I'll be on my way to the coast."
Milman denies the claim and has accused Fernández de Kirchner of pushing false evidence in the case.
Judge Capuchetti and prosecutor Carlos Rívolo initially took testimony from Milman's aides, who denied hearing the lawmaker make the comments. Arbello and his brother-in-law, Sebastián Rende, also testified as witnesses. Rende, who at the time of Milman's alleged statements was with Arbello, declared that he had "not heard anything."
According to the witnesses and the CCTV footage from the café, Arbello and Rende had sat at a table near a television set to watch a tennis match. At the next table was Mario Leito, Frente de Todos national deputy and president of Club Atlético Tucumán, and at the next table was Milman and his advisors.
Rende said that he could not hear the television because of the noise of the bar, nor what they were talking about at the table where Leíto was, whom he said he remembered because he had a visual memory and knew him from football. The witness also recognised Milman after Abello told him that he was linked to the government of Mauricio Macri, however Sebastián said that "he looked more at the girls who were with him" than at Milman himself and that "he did not hear what they were talking about – it seemed that he was making jokes and the girls were laughing."
The investigators later determined that there was no evidence to implicate Milman. For the judge and the prosecutor, the statements made by Cleri's advisor were fabricated and a case for false testimony was opened against him, which is now being investigated by judge Julian Ercolini and prosecutor Eduardo Taiano.
The vice-president’s legal team, rejecting those conclusions, are now seeking further investigation to establish if Milman may have had prior knowledge of the attack, and to this end they have called for the phones of Mónaco and Bohdziewicz to be seized.
The recusal request also has a second factor, with the vice-president’s legal team also claiming that Caputcheti has a prior relationship with the former heads of the AFI intelligence services during the Cambiemos government, Gustavo Arribas and Silvia Majdalani.
"In the last few hours, we found out that the judge regularly visited the Federal Intelligence Agency during the government of Mauricio Macri,” the lawyers said in their brief. “The agency was headed by Gustavo Arribas and Silvina Majdalani, who have been indicted for illegal espionage at the Instituto Patria [Kirchnerite think-tank].”
"Capuchetti is neither objectively nor subjectively impartial. She is not objectively impartial due to his undue relations with the Macrista AFI and the alleged measures made for journalistic means and not for the case, which arise from the reading of certain mass media," the recusal brief argues.
Over 37 pages, the text warns of "subjective partiality, which is the strongest form of partiality," since the judge "has acted during the process in a totally reluctant way to investigate any line that involves people beyond” those accused for the attack, including Brenda Uliarte, Fernando André Sabag Montiel and Gabriel Carrizo.
The document also reviews all the alleged failures in the investigation, from the erasure of information on Sabag Montiel's mobile phone to the reluctance to move forward on the complaint regarding Milman.
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