BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — An Argentine federal judge investigating the 1994 AMIA Jewish center bombing has requested that Singapore and Malaysia arrest a high-level Iranian adviser to the country’s supreme leader in connection with the attack.
Alí Akbar Velayati, who was Iran’s foreign minister at the time of the terrorist attack and has been implicated in ordering the bombing, is now an adviser on international affairs to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He is currently traveling in Southeast Asia to attend a regional summit.
Judge Rodolfo Canicoba Corral was notified on July 18, exactly 22 years after the bombing that killed 85 and injured hundreds, that Velayati, who heads the Strategic Research Center of the Expediency, was traveling to Singapore and Malaysia. He made the request to arrest Velayati alongside already existing arrest orders.
Under existing Argentine law, an accused person must have the opportunity to defend himself before a judge in order to reach a sentence. Since the accused Iranians, many from the upper political echelons, have not set foot on Argentine soil, it has been impossible to move the judicial process forward.
On Sunday, the head of the AMIA Special Investigation Unit, Mario Cimadevilla, confirmed that he was preparing a law to allow trials in absentia that would be discussed soon in the Parliament.
Iranians have been on Interpol’s most wanted list since 2007 in connection with the bombing. They include Mohsen Rabbani, a mullah and former cultural attache who did not travel to Colombia two months ago after political pressure to prevent his official government trip. Rabbani is believed to be a leading figure in spreading radical Islam in Latin America, particularly in Brazil.
Velayati has denied his role in the bombing. In an interview in May with an Argentine TV channel, he professed his innocence.
“This is a baseless accusation, a falsehood, a lie,’” he said. “Argentina is under the influence of Zionism and the United States.”
Asked if he would be willing to appear before an Argentine court, Velayati, who ran for Iranian president in 2013, responded that there was no reason why an Iranian official should have to respond to another nation’s accusations.
Iran also is believed to be behind the 1992 car bombing that destroyed the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, killing 29 and injuring 242.