Judges have cleared former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and a host of other officials of charges in a case relating to an alleged cover-up of Iran’s possible involvement in the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires.
Eighty-five people died in the bombing, the worst terrorist attack on Argentine soil, and more than 300 were injured. The case against Fernández de Kirchner and several of the officials from her 2007-2015 presidency was based on the Memorandum of Understanding with Iran to question the accused outside Argentina.
Federal Oral Court No. 8. led by judges María Gabriela López Iñiguez, Daniel Obligado and José Antonio Michilini, on Thursday ruled that there was “no crime” had been committed on the part of the former head of state and that the allegations against the current vice-president and her fellow accused should be dismissed.
"The Memorandum of Understanding with Iran, regardless of whether it is considered a political success or failure, did not constitute a crime or an act of cover-up," the judges concluded.
Also among those cleared are Treasury Attorney Carlos Zannini, Senator Oscar Parrilli, Deputy Justice Minister Juan Martín Mena, Buenos Aires Province Development Minister Andrés Larroque, social leaders Luis D'Elía and Fernando Esteche and the late Héctor Timerman, who served as Argentina’s foreign minister during the Fernández de Kirchner government.
The ruling can still be appealed before the Criminal Cassation Court, should the prosecution, DAIA Jewish organisation or relatives of the deceased decide to do so.
Addressing the court back in July, earlier this year, Fernández de Kirchner called for the case to be quashed, calling it "a judicial and political scandal" and attributing it "the persecution of political opponents of the Mauricio Macri government," a reference to the administration of successor in office from 2015 to 2019.
The Memorandum of Understanding was signed in 2013, with the endorsement of Argentina’s Congress. However, it was never ratified by lawmakers in Tehran and therefore did not enter into effect.
The accusations related to it originally lodged by late AMIA special prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who was found dead in the bathroom of his apartment with a bullet through his head in 2015. His death remains unsolved.
In his indictment, Nisman said that in signing the Memorandum, the then-president was trying to clear former Iranian officials, who were wanted internationally via Interpol red alert notices, in exchange for commercial benefits.
The judges, however, said that a cover-up could not be proven, nor was their evidence that benefits had been exchanged. They added that the Interpol “red alerts were always in force and still are.”
Opposition leader Patricia Bullrich reacted to the news by declaring that President Alberto Fernández had “kept his promise” to the vice-president.
"Alberto Fernández fulfilled a government promise, impunity for Cristina Kirchner," the PRO party leader told the TN news channel.
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"The judges consider that it is not a crime. The justice system considers that the memorandum with Iran is unconstitutional. Among all this, the death of the prosecutor Alberto Nisman has not yet been resolved. We do not like this, but it is a decision from the justice system,” she said.
Fernández de Kirchner, 68, has been acquitted in some corruption cases dating from her presidency but remains indicted in another six.
The AMIA attack was preceded by the bomb destruction of the Israeli Embassy in 1992 leaving 29 dead and 200 injured. Impunity continues for both attacks.