NEW YORK, Feb. 28, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AJC deplored the Argentine National Congress' narrowly- approved accord with Iran to "jointly investigate" the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.
"This is a dark day for Argentina's democracy, especially for the families of the AMIA victims, but, frankly, for the entire nation," said AJC Executive Director David Harris. "With strong support from President Kirchner, both houses of Congress have mindlessly sanctioned a pact with the very same government that Argentina had previously identified as the culprit in the devastating attack."
The July 18, 1994, bombing, which left 85 dead and 300 injured, was the worst terror attack in the Western Hemisphere before 9/11. It also came two years after a deadly bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires that was linked to Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah.
The Chamber of Deputies approved the Argentina-Iran Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on AMIA early today by a vote of 131 to 113. The Senate passed the measure last week by a vote of 39 to 31.
"Legislators who voted against this terribly misguided agreement with Iran are to be commended for standing up for Argentina's good name -- and for justice in the AMIA case," said Harris. "What President Kirchner and now the Argentine Congress have done is fundamentally undermine the valiant efforts of Special Prosecutor Alberto Nisman and Interpol to pursue those connected to the attack. The MOU, in effect, absurdly hands a gift to Iran, the leading state sponsor of terrorism."
Nisman's 2007 report concluded that Iran and Hezbollah were responsible for the AMIA bombing. Based on the Argentine special prosecutor's report, Interpol issued "red notices," or arrest requests, for five Iranian officials, including the current defense minister.
The MOU, once approved by both Argentina's and Iran's legislatures, will establish an international "truth commission," comprised of experts in international law who ostensibly will be allowed to question suspects in Iran. However, Iran has made clear since the two countries' foreign ministers signed the MOU that such interviews are unlikely to happen.
"Iran has excelled for more than 18 years in blocking the search for justice," said Harris. "To put it mildly, Argentina's decision to partner with Tehran in investigating AMIA is the height of diplomatic myopia."
Harris recalled that President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, as well as her late husband, President Nestor Kirchner, vowed repeatedly to apprehend and try those responsible for the terror attack, including before AJC audiences in Washington.
AJC condemned the MOU when Kirchner first announced it in January. "The idea of establishing a 'truth' commission on the AMIA tragedy that involves the Iranian regime would be like asking Nazi Germany to help establish the facts of Kristallnacht," said Harris.
AMIA is a longstanding AJC international partner. AJC has stood at the side of the Argentine Jewish community from the first moments of the tragedy in 1994, when an AJC group traveled to Buenos Aires, calling for justice and returning at least annually since. At the same time, AJC has been warning repeatedly about the concerted Iranian attempt to gain a bigger foothold in the Western Hemisphere.
SOURCE American Jewish Committee