In a long-awaited indictment, Argentinean prosecutors have accused the top Iranian leadership of masterminding the 1994 bombing of the Jewish communal center in Buenos Aires and asked the judge in charge of the case to issue arrest warrants against seven Iranian leaders, including former president Ali Akbar Rafsanjani.
The indictment reprises most of the charges described in a March 2003 ruling by the magistrate previously in charge of the investigation. But while the first indictment fingered some “radical elements” within the Iranian leadership and only requested the arrest of one government minister, then-intelligence minister Ali Fallahian, the new one is more direct in accusing the mullahs’ regime.
The indictment claims that the attack, which killed 85 and wounded more than 300, was ordered by the “highest authorities” in Iran during a high-level meeting in August 1993. As a result, the warrants target the most senior Iranian officials at the time — Rafsanjani, then-foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati, then-Revolutionnary Guard commander Mohsen Rezai — as well as Fallahian and diplomats already singled out in the 2003 indictment.
Prosecutors Alberto Nisman and Marcelo Burgos indicated that they had decided not to include Supreme leader Ali Khamenei, who reportedly attended the meeting where they claim the decision was made, because of the immunity granted to heads of state. The prosecutors also called for the arrest of Imad Mughniyeh, an infamous commander of the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah, which prosecutors accused of carrying out the truck bombing on behalf of Tehran.
Iran has repeatedly denied being involved in the attack.
The development is likely to provide additional ammunition to the Bush administration’s drive to paint Iran as a dangerous rogue state that should be prevented from obtaining nuclear weapons. While European countries share Washington’s concerns, efforts to gather support for multilateral sanctions against the regime have progressed slowly.
The judge overseeing the case, Rodolfo Canicoba Corral, now has to decide whether to endorse the prosecutor’s recommendations. His predecessor, Juan Jose Galeano, was disbarred after revelations that he played a role in bribing a key witness in the trial of alleged local abettors of the attack.
Several policemen were freed after the trial failed to establish their role in helping the attack. The government then beefed up the prosecutorial team and promised a thorough investigation that would not be contingent upon political and diplomatic considerations. In the face of growing discontent about the slow pace of their work and suspicions that the Kirchner administration was pressing them to avoid implicating Iran directly, the prosecutors have repeatedly urged the Jewish community and families of the victims to be patient. Several sources close to the issue said that in addition to Jewish groups in Argentina and America, the Bush administration in recent weeks has also been urging Buenos Aires to move ahead with the AMIA case.
The U.S. Embassy in Argentina welcomed the indictment.