Justice delayed

Twenty-three years after the AMIA attack, it is not too late to bring Iran to justice.

July 8, 2017 22:42
3 minute read.
Rescue workers search for survivors and victims in the rubble of the AMIA building

Rescue workers search for survivors and victims in the rubble left after a powerful car bomb destroyed the Buenos Aires headquarters of the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA), in this July 18, 1994 file photo. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Among the 85 victims killed in the 1994 AMIA Buenos Aires Jewish Center attack, the DNA remains of an Iranian suicide bomber were revealed last week by Argentina after two years of investigation. It is not too late to demand a clear ending to this atrocity by holding Iran responsible and bringing its regime to justice.

Proof of the Iranian link was announced by the AMIA Special Investigation Unit of the General Prosecution. It was the first discovery of a genetic profile that did not belong to any of the known victims. The suspected suicide bomber was named as Ibrahim Hussein Berro, a Lebanese citizen and member of the terrorist group Hezbollah.

In May 2016, US attorney-general Loretta Lynch and FBI director James Comey met in Washington with Argentinean Justice Minister Germán Garavano and offered technical help that ultimately revealed Iran’s link to the AMIA attack – and also to the death of special prosecutor Alberto Nisman, the day before he was to charge then-president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner for covering up the attack.

Although five Iranians remain on Interpol’s most wanted list in connection with the massive bombing, none has been extradited by Iran. Instead, the apparent cover-up of Nisman’s death – an assassination crudely staged to appear as a suicide – has generated conspiracy theories involving spies, foreign governments and corrupt politicians.

The reopened case from 23 years ago was analyzed in a comprehensive, 10,000-word report by Dexter Filkins in The New Yorker in July 2015. His research has yielded mounting evidence, but no conclusions.

In 2006, Nisman had indicted seven Iranian officials, including its former president and foreign minister, whom he accused of being behind the attack, along with Hezbollah.

He followed up by issuing international arrest warrants for five of them.

Iran’s longtime Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei scoffed at Argentina’s demands to extradite the accused, and even issued his own warrant for Nisman’s arrest. Nisman continued to pressure the Iranians, however, until the day he died under suspicious circumstances.

On January 14, 2015, Nisman had accused Kirchner of a criminal conspiracy to bury the AMIA case. “The order to execute the crime came directly and personally from the president of the nation,” he wrote. A public outcry led Argentina’s congress to summon him to testify, which he was determined to do before his mysterious death.

The 800-page indictment that Nisman prepared also charged former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and senior Hezbollah military commander Imad Mughniyeh with the attack. “The decision to carry out the attack was made not by a small splinter group of extremist Islamic officials,” Nisman wrote, but was “extensively discussed and ultimately adopted by a consensus of the highest representatives of the Iranian government.”

On January 27, 2013, Kirchner announced she had reached a nonbinding agreement with Iran to set up a “truth commission” that did not call to prosecute the suspects. This was her response to a nearly 300-page report Nisman had submitted to a federal judge two weeks before.

Its 60-page summary was released to the media, accusing Kirchner of “an aggravated cover-up and obstruction of justice regarding the Iranians accused of the AMIA terrorist attack.”

While Argentina simmered with conspiracy theories that blamed everyone else for Nisman’s death – the CIA, Mossad, even MI6 – Kirchner’s website first endorsed the “finding” that it was a suicide. Three days later, she asserted that he had been murdered in a plot to discredit her.

Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has been involved in some of the most extensive terrorist activity around the globe. Before Kirchner announced the Iran agreement, Nisman’s staff had produced a 500-page report on Hezbollah and Iran’s terrorist infiltration in Latin America.

Jewish community leader Waldo Wolff eulogized Nisman for his 20-year crusade to provide justice to the victims of the AMIA bombing. His death, “and the macabre plot around his death,” Wolff told the mourners, allowed us “to see what actually lies underneath them: the dark labyrinth of power hidden in the most open parts of our society.”

Twenty-three years after the AMIA attack, it is not too late to bring Iran to justice. The 85 slain and the more than 300 who were wounded deserve this, but it is also an important message that even as time passes, crimes are not forgotten.

Terrorists will be hunted down and pay for their actions.

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