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Newsdesk July 16, 2004

Iranian Role Disputed

Just days before the 10th anniversary of the bombing of the Jewish communal center in Buenos Aires, the Swiss federal office laid to rest one of the most intriguing investigative leads in the case by announcing Tuesday that no evidence had been found of Swiss bank accounts being used to fund the attack.

According to the testimony of an Iranian defector who is a leading witness in the case, Iranian officials wired $10 million to a bank account in Geneva belonging to Carlos Menem, who then was Argentina’s president, in exchange for diverting his country’s investigation into the bombing away from Tehran. Menem has denied the allegations repeatedly.

Two years ago, Argentine authorities asked Switzerland to investigate whether accounts held by Menem and by representatives of Iran existed in a Geneva bank designated by the witness.

Christine Junod, the investigative judge in charge of the case in Geneva, told the Forward that a thorough examination of the bank’s records and additional verifications had provided no evidence of such accounts and that the findings had been transmitted to Argentina.

German Jews Recognize Reform

The organization representing German Jews has agreed to allow the 15 Reform congregations in the country to apply for funding, ending a bitter dispute over the distribution of funding received from the federal government.

The decision on the Reform congregations was formalized in talks after a June 20 board meeting of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, and follows intense lobbying from the international community of the Reform Movement. Previously the Central Council had argued that the Reform congregations threatened to split German Jewry over money. Furthermore, they said the liberal congregations were lax on the definition of who is a Jew.

Groups Oppose Marriage Amendment

Jewish groups reiterated their opposition to a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. On Monday, the Anti-Defamation League sent a letter to Republican and Democratic leaders urging them to vote against the amendment, which is backed by President Bush. The Reform Movement, the National Council of Jewish Women and the also have expressed opposition to the amendment. The Reform Movement’s Religious Action Center helped organize a letter opposing the amendment, signed by more than a thousand clergy of different faiths.

Court Rules Against PLO

The Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority must pay more than $230 million to the estate of a slain Jewish couple, a U.S. court ruled. U.S. District Judge Ronald Lagueux upheld a magistrate judge’s ruling finding the organizations responsible for the drive-by shooting eight years ago, and ordered each to pay more than $116 million.

The Antiterrorism Act of 1991 allowed the estate’s lawyer to sue on behalf of the slain couple, an American and an Israeli, by permitting lawsuits against organizations that kill American citizens. The ruling expanded the scope of responsibility from Hamas, which Lagueux ordered in January to pay $116 million in compensation. Plaintiffs argued that the PLO and Palestinian Authority provide safe haven for Hamas.

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