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WORLD | 26-08-2021 23:37

Iran leader names another AMIA bombing suspect as official, angering Argentina

Argentina expresses “strongest condemnation” of Iran President Ebrahim Raisi’s decision to appoint Mohsen Rezaei, wanted by Interpol for 1994 AMIA terror attack, to his government. News comes just two weeks after Ahmad Vahidi was named interior minister.

Argentina’s government this week condemned the appointment of a second official in new Iran President Ebrahim Raisi’s administration wanted by Interpol in relation to the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires.

The Foreign Ministry issued a statement expressing Argentina’s “strongest condemnation” of the approval of former Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps leader Mohsen Rezaei as Iran’s vice-president for economic affairs. 

The news comes just two weeks after it emerged that Raisi – who ran against Rezaei in this year’s presidential election – had nominated Ahmad Vahidi, a former leader of the Quds, the powerful paramilitary arm of the Revolutionary Guard, for the post of interior minister. 

Both Vahidi and Rezai are wanted for their roles in the 1994 attack on the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) community centre in Once, Buenos Aires City and face outstanding Interpol arrest warrants. According to a 2017 report in the case file, both men were Quds commanders and members of a group that evaluated proposals for the attack.

The AMIA bombing, which killed 85 people and left more than 300 injured, is Argentina's deadliest terrorist attack to date. Twenty-seven years after it occurred, the authors and perpetrators of the crime have still not been jailed. 

On Wednesday, the government described the appointment of the Iranian officials as “an affront to the Argentine justice system and the victims of the brutal terrorist attack.”

"Like Vahidi, Rezai is the subject of a complaint from the Argentine Justice system for having had a key role in the decision-making and planning of the attack committed on July 18, 1994 on the AMIA building,” said the Foreign Ministry, noting that an international arrest warrant from Interpol remained active.

It called on the Iranian government to “cooperate fully” with Argentina's justice system and to allow the accused “to be tried by the competent courts," it concludes.

The AMIA bomb attack was attributed to senior Iranian officials, led by then-president Ali Rafsanjani, and the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah movement, a hypothesis supported by the Argentine Jewish leadership and Israel.

But the judicial probe, which faced allegations of cover-ups from the start, was tainted by the sabotaged leads, convictions for concealment and annulled processes.

In 2007, Argentina secured Interpol arrest warrants for four Iranians for their alleged role in the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community centre. 

Tehran has denied any involvement in the attack, and has always refused to allow its former officials to be questioned. The two nations maintain diplomatic relations at the level of chargé d'affaires.

According to the investigations of the late AMIA special prosecutor Alberto Nisman, Vahidi was the commander of the Quds brigade of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard. According to Nisman, Vahidi “participated in the meeting deciding the attack in Argentina.”

A controversial ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ with Iran was agreed in 2012 under then-president (and current vice president) Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (2007-2015), which according to her government would have allowed the suspects to face questioning outside of Argentina. The accord, however, never came into force.

Fernández de Kirchner would later face charges of covering up the involvement of Iranian leaders, claims she strenuously denies and attributes to political persecution. At a recent trial hearing, she dismissed the case as “nonsense and a judicial and political scandal” and requested it be thrown out.

The accusations were originally lodged by prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who was found dead in the bathroom of his apartment with a bullet through his head in 2015 in an episode which shocked the country.

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.

 

– TIMES/AFP

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