Leaders of Argentina’s Jewish community – as well as their counterparts in the
United States and Israel – expressed outrage on Thursday over a contentious vote
in the country’s Chamber of Deputies that would pave the way for Iran to
participate in the investigation of the 1994 Buenos Aires Jewish community
The 131:113 vote to ratify a memorandum of understanding
with Iran comes a week after the Argentine Senate voiced its approval of the MOU
Officials in Argentina, Israel and the United States have
previously blamed the attack, which killed 85 people at the Asociación Mutual
Israelita Argentina (AMIA) building, on the Iranian regime.
Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman officially accused former Iranian president
Hashemi Rafsanjani, among others, of ordering the attack, and claimed that
Hezbollah had carried it out on Iran’s behalf. In 2007, Argentine authorities
secured Interpol arrest warrants for five Iranians and a Lebanese over the
attack. Islamic Jihad, believed to be linked to Iran and Hezbollah, claimed
responsibility for the bombing.
Members of Argentina’s judiciary have
placed the blame on several key Iranian figures, including the country’s Defense
Minister Ahmad Vahidi.
The accord ratified Thursday will establish a
five-member commission made up of foreign legal experts, and outlines plans for
Argentine judicial officials to travel to Tehran to question the people for whom
Interpol has issued arrest warrants.
Commission members will analyze the
documents presented by both nations’ judicial authorities and “issue a report
containing recommendations on how to proceed with the case,” according to the
During the vote, members of the Argentine Jewish community
picketed outside the congress, holding signs that read “No.”
have called the pact “unconstitutional” and stated that it will “whitewash the
Iranian regime,” according to the World Jewish Congress, which quoted one local
as saying the decision would “ensure that the attack’s organizers go
The agreement is a “shame,” asserted Latin American Jewish
Congress President Jack Terpins on Thursday. It “causes offense to the families
of the victims” and means that Vahidi will now “be tried in the garden of his
home,” he told Agencia Judía de Noticias.
Terpins further accused the
Argentine Congress of what he termed “an aggression against Jews and all Argentinians.”
Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky also expressed
outrage, telling The Jerusalem Post
that “this decision of the Argentine
Congress not only undermines the efforts of the government and people of
Argentina over many years to bring the killers to justice, it rehabilitates
those who sent them.”
Sharansky called the memorandum of understanding “a
serious blow to those fighting terror around the world.”
of Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner – such as the country’s
Jewish foreign minister, Héctor Timerman – maintain that the agreement will
allow for the interrogation of Iranians suspected of involvement in the attack,
Iran has stated that it will not agree to any such questioning.
president has close ties with other Latin American leaders who are on good terms
with Tehran, such as Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, and her supporters hailed the
memorandum of understanding as a historic opportunity.
represents a bold decision, a brave decision that opens a possible path toward
the truth,” said ruling party lawmaker Mara Brawer during the heated 12- hour
Fernández controls both houses of Congress, meaning final
ratification of the accord was expected. But opposition lawmakers questioned the
government’s motives, with some saying commercial interests of oil and grain
sales lay behind it.
Opposition lawmaker Eduardo Amadeo, an ex-ambassador
to Washington, accused the government of putting commerce before justice and
criticized Iran’s record on human rights.
“This is the chronicle of a
failure foretold,” he said. “We’re going to sell out the victims for a barrel of
Claudio Epelman, the Latin American Jewish Congress’s executive
director, told the Post
on Thursday that “the government of Iran has a
long-standing tradition of not complying with the agreements it signs. In this
case, the Tehran regime seeks to discredit Argentina’s judiciary and the
investigation [previously] undertaken....
Argentina demands these
Iranians citizens face trial, Interpol has issued red notices for their arrests,
and Iran protects them.”
Epelman said it was “unfortunate that the
Argentine government has not understood this,” and claimed that by signing an
agreement with Tehran, “it has taken an important step backward in the search
[for] justice. This approval by Parliament inflicts a painful punch to the
investigation and the victims.”
US State Department spokeswoman Victoria
Nuland also expressed doubts over the vote, telling reporters in Washington on
Thursday that the United States was “skeptical that such a just solution can be
found in the arrangement announced.”
“Iran’s record of cooperation with
international authorities is profoundly deficient, which underlines the concern
that its engagement on this matter be focused on achieving justice promptly,”
she elaborated in a later statement.
Her Israeli counterpart, Foreign
Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor, noted that he was disappointed by the Argentine
Past experience has shown that agreements with
governments of Iran are not kept, and fail to change Tehran’s line, he told the
“Unfortunately the current agreement will also fail to achieve what
has been and still is the only goal: bringing to justice those responsible for
the terrorist attacks in Buenos Aires, and punishing them for their deeds,” he
said.Reuters contributed to this report.