Rescue workers work after an explosives-laden truck blew up outside the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA) building on July 18 1994, in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Argentina Court Calls Iran ‘Terrorist State’ Over Deadly 1994 Bombings

Friday, 04/12/2024

Argentina’s highest criminal court has ruled that Iran ordered the deadly 1992 attack on Israel’s embassy in Buenos Aires and the 1994 attack on AMIA Jewish community center, which killed more than 100 people.

Describing the attack on the Asociacion Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) Jewish center as a “crime against humanity,” Argentina’s Court of Cassation deemed Iran and its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, responsible for the bombing and declared Iran a “terrorist state.”

In 1992, a bomb attack on the Israeli embassy left 29 dead. Two years later, a truck loaded with explosives drove into the AMIA Jewish center and detonated, leaving 85 dead and 300 injured – the deadliest terror act in Argentina’s history.

“The significance of these grave human rights violations for the international community as a whole invokes a state’s duty to provide judicial protection,” the ruling said.

The court also highlighted the role of the Iran-backed Shiite militia group Hezbollah for the attack. "Hezbollah carried out an operation that responded to a political, ideological and revolutionary design under the mandate of a government, of a State," Carlos Mahiques, one of the three judges who issued the decision, told Radio Con Vos, referring to Iran.

A man walks past a banner reading "Memory and justice" and the names of the victims of the 1994 bombing attack on the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) community centre a day after Argentina's highest criminal court blamed Iran for the attack, in Buenos Aires, Argentina April 12, 2024.

According to court documents cited by local media, the attacks came in retaliation for Argentina reneging on a nuclear cooperation deal with Tehran. Argentina canceled three contracts in the mid-1980s that would have supplied Tehran with nuclear technology.

The AMIA attack has never been claimed by any group or solved, but Argentina and Israel have long suspected Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah group carried it out at Iran's orders. In 2006, Argentinian courts pressed charges against eight present and former high-ranking Iranian officials, alongside a Lebanese national, in connection with the attack. Interpol arrest warrants for the convicted officials have led nowhere.

Citing confidential intelligence reports, the court directly implicated top Iranian officials and commanders of the Revolutionary Guard in the bombings.

In 2007, Interpol General Assembly upheld the unanimous decision made by the organization’s Executive Committee to publish six out of nine Red Notices requested in connection with the AMIA.

Iranian Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi (left) and Mohsen Rezaei, a former chief commander of the Revolutionary Guards

The notices were requested by the Argentinean National Central Bureau (NCB) for Imad Fayez Moughnieh, the number two in Iran-backed Hezbollah, Iran’s Former Intelligence Minister Ali Fallahian, Cleric Mohsen Rabbani – known as the chief architect of Iran's Latin American missionary network -- Iranian diplomat Ahmad Reza Asghari – aka Hamid-Reza Es’hagi and Moshen Ranjbaran. Revolutionary Guards commander and incumbent Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi as well as President Ebrahim Raisi’s former vice president for economic affairs, Revolutionary Guard’s commander Mohsen Rezaei (Rezai), were also among them.

Argentina has the largest Jewish community in Latin America, with some 300,000 members. It also is home to immigrant communities from the Middle East, particularly from Syria and Lebanon.

The ruling of the Thursday court session was welcomed by the president of the Delegation of Israelite Associations of Argentina (DAIA), Jorge Knoblovits. He told Radio Mitre the ruling "is very important, because it enables the victims to go to the International Criminal Court."

Past inquiries into the bombings have turned up indictments, not just against Iranian officials but also two former Argentine presidents. In 2015, the chief prosecutor in the case was mysteriously found dead in his bathroom the day before he was to go public with claims that top Argentine officials had conspired with Iran to cover up responsibility for the bombing.

Former Argentine president Carlos Menem, who died in 2021 and was the president at the time of both attacks, was tried for covering up the AMIA bombing, but ultimately acquitted. His former intelligence chief Hugo Anzorreguy was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in jail for his role in obstructing the probe. Along with a dozen other defendants, he faced a multitude of corruption and obstruction of justice charges in the case. Among them was Juan Jose Galeano, the former judge who led the investigation into the attack. In 2019, Galeano was jailed for six years for concealing and tampering with evidence.

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